Training keeps Explorers at cutting-edge of new firefighting tactics and technology
Posted on 07/26/2018
Brennan is directing the hose toward the blaze; while Lucas supports the hose further down the line.Every summer, the Northville City Fire Department sends a group of Explorers – young adults and teens interested in becoming firefighters – to the University of Illinois Fire Service Institute in Champaign for intense training in firefighting and rescue skills. Two Explorers, Lucas Calandro, 19, and Brennan Mikel, 18, attended the Explorer Cadet Fire Academy in July. They were joined by Post Advisor Shari Allen and former Explorer Paul McKeever, now serving in the Air Force.
The four-day event serves some 400 people, mostly from nearby states. The students are divided into a basic or advanced group depending on their skill level and prior training. Lucas, in his fourth year with the Explorers, participated in the advanced class and practiced training with live fire.

One of the highlights of this year’s training was teaching participants how to fight a propane fire hands-on. Two industrial-size propane tanks were lit and the trainees advanced to extinguish the fire. They were taught to deal with the dangers that make a propane-based fire harder to fight than a regular fire due to increased risks. Because propane is invisible, it can migrate under their face shield and cause burns. Their training taught them to open their face shields slightly to let harmful vapors escape.

Brennan attended the Basic class and, according to Allen, “He got about a year’s worth of training in four days. He was able to learn a lot of the basic skills such as equipment and tactics for ropes and knots, structural firefighting techniques, emergency medical services and auto extrication.”

The Northville post has worked in conjunction with the post of Western Springs Fire Department in Illinois for the past three years, each providing adult staff to assist during training, evening activities and at the dorms.

“We are always impressed by the wonderful staff at the academy and the firefighters who volunteer to be trainers for this group of teens and young adults looking to get a head-start on their fire careers,” Allen said. She added, “It takes a lot of effort and help to allow our Explorers to attend the academy – this is our 10th year attending.”

The post has the full support of Fire Chief Steve Ott, who notes that many former Explorers have been hired over the years as paid-on-call firefighters, including four current personnel.

Several members of the department helped provide training to the Explorers, staffed the post’s most recent car wash and conducted fit testing to make the trip possible

Northville’s Explorer program meets twice a month and holds monthly drills in fire-fighting tactics and EMS skills. It is chartered through Learning-for-Life’s Explorer program (a division of Boy Scouts of America) and is funded entirely by grants and donations. The post is active in the community, as kids help conduct fire drills at Allen Terrace, the city’s senior housing facility; assist at festivals; play victim for mock disaster drills and help other community groups.

About 80 percent of the Explorers who attend the Northville program pursue a career as a firefighter or in a related capacity.