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Posted: December 23, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Train with the Firefighter Explorers

For high schoolers considering a career in firefighting or those merely interested in what a firefighter’s life is like, Newton County offers a firefighter explorer program. The group is affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America. Through hands-on practice and small group lectures, aspiring firefighters gain an accurate depiction of what the profession is like, not only its merits, but also its difficulties. Explorers meet twice a month at a local station for about 90 minutes.

The teens learn basic firefighting skills, ranging from locating tools on the trucks to hastily changing into full fire-retardant gear in less than two minutes.

James Crane, 15, a sophomore at Alcovy High School, enjoys Explorers, especially the quick-dress drills. During a practice session one recent evening, he was one of the first finished.

"I really like quick dress," he said. "We’re planning to attend a competition in Gatlinburg, Tenn., where we will compete with fellow explorers to see who can complete drills fastest."

Crane plans to join the Marine Corps after high school, then come back and work as a firefighter.

Crane and the other Explorers are encouraged to ask questions about what it’s like to be a firefighter and get a detailed look into life at the station and the people who work there. The ratio of youth to advisers is high, almost one adult for every student. This fosters a great atmosphere for learning and allows for personal and in depth instruction for everyone present.

Instructors offer tips and advice based on their years of first-hand experience. Many of them were in the explorer program when they were teens and view the experience as a great introduction to the profession. They say the explorer program is similar to an introductory firefighter course.

To join explorers, members pay yearly charter dues to the Boy Scouts of America, submit three letters of reference, write a two-page essay on why they want to be a Fire/Rescue Explorer and submit a parent permission form and a medical information form. Learn more at www.newtoncountyfireservice.org.

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