For the last 22 years, the St. Cloud Fire Department has organized and played host to the Fire Explorer Post 2032 and is back for another year of fun for young firefighters. The Fire Service Explorer post is a program that offers a wide variety of activities for adolescents from ages 14 through 20.
“We do basic fire one and two training and it’s just a way to see if this is something they want to do as a career,” St. Cloud Firefighter and Fire Explorer lead advisor, Andrew Rasmussen said.
The program operates nationwide and only costs $50 a year to get involved. The affordable amount pays for things such as insurance for the program and a tee shirt, along with safety equipment like glasses, a helmet, boots, and more.
“It kind of helps bring some of these kids up just from the local community and let them know that they can have a job,” Rasmussen said.
The Fire Explorer program teaches young men and women everything from leadership to EMS and CPR training to even simulating a search and rescue.
“You do everything the firefighters do,” Fire Explorer Cole Stroot said. “You can go into the call, you can’t touch the patient, but you can carry the bags up there and you just kind of watch what they do.”
Even if you’re a person who isn’t necessarily interested in becoming a firefighter, the program is a way to give kids a chance to learn different safety precautions and to find out if it’s something they’ll want to do as a career. Part of the purpose of the organization is to get kids to keep busy and to stay out of trouble during the school year.
“We can get them involved and kind of teach them some leadership skills, and it’s something that they can carry for the rest of their life,” Rasmussen said.
Not only do children learn about fire safety throughout the six-month interval, but they also go around the community and volunteer to help raise money for muscular dystrophy.
Additionally, the Fire Explorer program is also partnered with the Boy Scouts of America and have been since 1935. This year, there will be four advisors involved in the St. Cloud post, and the participants couldn’t be more excited to get back to it.
“We like seeing each other not only to do the fire service stuff, but to see each other as well,” Fire Explorer Luke Casperson said. “We’re all friends and the people really make it fun to do.”
The St. Cloud Fire Explorers meet every first and second Tuesday of each month to prepare for different activities throughout the six months. The beauty of this exciting and adventurous program is what ends up happening to some of these kids in the long run: deciding to make it their career path.
“We’ve had kids in this program that have become firefighters, and are firefighters here in St. Cloud, they became dispatchers, [and] they became EMS for gold cross,” Rasmussen said.
Even though every city does not offer this program, that doesn’t mean only kids in St. Cloud can get involved.
Rasmussen suggests if people are interested in it being a potential career, they should try to get involved with their local fire department any way they can and attempt to push their department into starting a similar program themselves if the Fire Explorer program is not offered.
“Just get involved, even if you’re not in the St. Cloud area, there are a lot of other departments throughout the state that do have fire explorer programs,” he said.
At the end of each year, the Fire Explorer program prepares students for a special event at the State Fair where all of the Fire Explorers from across the state of Minnesota meet for a contest against each other.
“For the last month or two, we’ll get together and do training just for that so they can kind of get prepared and try to finish at least in the top five,” Rasmussen said.
Once the year comes to a close on the program, kids will be more aware of fire safety along with leadership skills, making friends, but most importantly the goal is for these young firefighters to have fun.
“It’s really fun, I enjoy teaching the kids and all the other advisers that teach with me,” Rasmussen said. “We enjoy it, it’s just fun all around.”