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Cumberland Fire Acadamy - The Explorers

By Andrew Pollack on 08/04/2005 at 10:28 PM EDT

If I've been a bit quiet this week, its because I've been helping out with this years Fire Academy. Each year, our "Explorer" post invites several other town posts over and we host a 5 day long "Fire Academy" for the kids. "Explorers" are kids between the ages of 14 and 18 who learn the job of either firefighters or police officers. They train, they help out, and they even run on calls and participate in a limited capacity. The Explorer program is run through the Boy Scouts of America, though it is open to both boys and girls in that age group. Although we do have many more boys that participate, there are more and more girls each year and they hold their own.

For five days, these kids eat, sleep, and train at the fire station. They have gear, and they're shown how to use it. They get taught virtually all the same things any other firefighter learns -- if a bit briefly. For most, its an additive education to what they're already learning throughout the year as Explorers. The kids go on the calls with the trucks, wear breathing apparatus (but can't actually use the regulator and breath bottled air without a medical clearance), operate and climb ladders (subject to some age constraints) and learn to perform hose advancement, search and rescue, extrication, medical assistance, vent operations, command, water supply and water rescue. As much as possible is hands on. This year, I helped out during a class called "roll up scenarios" -- a sort of culminating adventure of a drill. The kids are split into six groups, and each is assigned a job. The jobs were "Ladders/Vent", "Search", "Attack Line", "Backup Line", "Water Supply", and "RIT/REHAB". I led the last of these. The drill is run six times, each time a different group rotates into each position.

The drill was held in the next town over, where they've got an old farmhouse they're planning to tear down. That let us have more realism than usual. Usually we go to Yarmouth's training site -- which is fantastic, but most of the kids have memorized the layout by now. We used simulated smoke (Hollywood smoke) and we used a charged (filled with water) attack line -- which we'd gated down so that if they opened the nozzle it wouldn't have any pressure -- and the kids did all the jobs as if they'd just rolled up on the scene. A "patient" (160 pound rescue dummy) was hidden in the house to make things even more fun for the search team.

RIT/REHAB, which I taught, wasn't as fun. You can't teach RIT in 10 minutes, and you can't drill on RIT during a live drill set up for any other purpose. RIT is just too dangerous. We decided to use that block as a chance to rehab the kids -- get them to drink plenty of water and sit around with their gear off to let themselves cool down. During this cool down, I talked about what we do on a RIT team and why. Once they'd cooled off some, we walked around and went over the specialized gear RIT uses and then walked the outside of the house talking about what kinds of things a RIT team wants to be aware of (like the location of Fuse Panels, Furnace pipes, oil tanks, washing machine and dryer vents, etc.). We take note of these kinds of things because someone who is lost may say "I'm near the washing machines" or "I can see the fuse panel in the basement." -- these things all have inside/outside correlations so you can pinpoint a location based on them. Of course, we also talked about getting ground ladders to the second floor windows in case we or someone else has to bail out quickly.

The week goes by pretty quickly -- I'm glad I don't do the whole week of staying with them. They wear you right out. Tonight was the big finish, Captain Copp runs the diner this month and I'm on his supper committee along with a few others. It happens to be the annual lobster bake. We invite all the parents of the kids in the academy just finishing, and serve up about 150 lobsters, a ton or so of burgers, hot dogs, and all the things to go with it. My job each year is to keep six or seven lobster pots going and getting all those lobsters from alive and angry, to dead and yummy. By the time we're done cleaning up, its about 2200.

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