Exploring the world of firefighting - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Exploring the world of firefighting

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Ask a child what he or she wants to be in the future, and chances are "firefighter" will be near the top of the list.  It's a dream some children never outgrow, and for them, the Fire Explorers Program is the perfect outlet for their aspirations.  Open to young men and women ages 14 to 20, the Fire Explorers program is supported by local fire departments and intended to foster careers in fire and/or emergency services.  On November 2nd-3rd, more than 125 young people participated in Alabama's 4th Annual Fire Explorers Weekend.

The weekend included lessons on safety and leadership, as well as hands-on training.  There were eight events open to explorers: rope rescue, vehicle extrication, ladder drill, search and rescue, a pipe crawl, rapid intervention, confined space drill and live fire scenario.  Explorers could participate in up to five events.  Justin Goodwin, an explorer with the Helena Fire Department said, "being at the Fire College really gives us the opportunities that we wouldn't have at our home department."  Goodwin added, "here in this controlled environment with the instructors, we're allowed to actually have some live fire training."

Battalion Chief Gene Coleman works with the Center Point and Birmingham Fire Districts.  He's also with the Greater Alabama Fire Service Explorers and has seen more than two-dozen former explorers become fellow firefighters.  He says the program focuses heavily on safety.  "In the fire service, you have to have a team approach... we stress there is no free-lancing.  Free-lancing is where injuries and deaths occur," Coleman says.

For those explorers who enter careers outside the fire service, their instructors say the program still provides valuable life lessons.  Students agree.  Some say the drills helped them overcome fears or stretch their boundaries.  All say they now know the real meaning of teamwork.


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