The SPFD Explorer cadet program is currently accepting applications
By Brandi Makuski
“Are you kidding? That was awesome,” called out 15-year-old Peter Barnes gleefully, after removing his belay gear.
Barnes, who attends Amherst High School, was one of 11 Explorer cadets from the Stevens Point Fire Dept. to participate in Wednesday night’s low-angle ropes rescue training at Iverson Park. The group was working, with the help of an entire SPFD squad, on the safe method to descend a hill, then safely return to the hilltop with a casualty in tow.
It’s a type of rescue the SPFD isn’t called to often, said firefighter/EMT Shane Westphal, but that doesn’t relieve the dept. from the responsibility of being prepared for it.
The cadets prepared for the exercise with a classroom briefing before meeting at the top of the sledding hills in Iverson Park shortly after sunset on Nov. 16. Once there, they split into groups to practice belaying — a technique climbers use to exert tension on a rope controlling descent speed, and to prevent a climber from falling — and safely transporting an injured person via a litter on an inclined surface.
Wednesday was just the latest exercise; cadets previously had undergone training for vehicle extrication, first aid, fire hose training and experienced safely climbing truck ladders.
The Explorers program was popular locally about 15 years ago before it was dissolved, according to Dean Bushey, executive for the Boys Scouts Samoset Council Mushkodany District. The Boy Scouts partner with SPFD to run the program- but boys and girls, ages 15-20, are equally welcome.
The program was resurrected by the Stevens Point Fire Dept. in late 2014 — and so far, it’s been a hit.
“We want to get people who really want to be here,” said Westphal, who helps direct the program at SPFD. “It’s always great to see how the young men and woman respond to the different activities we have for them. A lot of them really seem to enjoy it.”
Barnes certainly was enjoying it. The high school student was in high spirits Wednesday — typical of his personality, according to the other cadets — and said he sees the Explorers program as a way to prepare him for his future.
“I joined because I wanted to learn more about the fire department, and I want to save lives when I get older,” said Barnes, who plans to become a paramedic after high school. “I like the program a lot; it’s really fun meeting new people, and I got to meet the [fire] chief, which was cool. So far my favorite thing was probably learning how to do IVs, but this [Wednesday’s activities] is really fun, too.”
And for those who think the Explorers program is just for the boys — think again.
“Boys and girls are equal, nobody even thinks about it,” said Brittney Falkavage, who attends SPASH.
Falkavage, 17, said she joined because she plans to become an EMT after high school. She wishes the post met more frequently than just once a month because she finds it so enjoyable.
“My favorite activity was the jaws of life,” she said. “It’s a very interesting career and it can be really stressful, but you just have to manage yourself; anybody can do it.”
The Explorers post currently has openings for boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 20. For more information call the SPFD at (715) 344-1833.