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SPFD’s Explorer Post opens application period

By Brandi Makuski

The Stevens Point Fire Department this week announced five open spots for the highly-coveted Explorer Post 242.

Applications can be picked up at the SPFD, 1701 Franklin St., and must be returned by 6 p.m. on Dec. 31.

After several years of dormancy, the post relaunched in 2014, offering young men and women ages 15-21 a chance for hands-on learning in the fields of firefighting and emergency medical services. The post was an instant hit, having to turn some applicants away.

“We have to keep the numbers low,” Firefighter/Paramedic Shane Westphal said in October. “The success of the program, at least part of it, comes from the low student-to-advisor ratio. Otherwise, the cadets who come here for learning will have a hard time do that learning.”

Fire Marshal Drew Egan helps obscure a cadet’s vision, an exercise in learning how to maneuver without sight, similar to moving around in a smoke-filled building. (Metro Wire photo)

Westphal said most of the students who apply have a genuine interest in entering some emergency responder profession, but it’s also helped some students realize the field isn’t what they thought.

“Sometimes we have cadets who realize this isn’t for them,” Westphal said. “And that’s okay. We have a lot of fun here, but this is designed for students who want to learn, even if they never wind up doing this job.”

Cadets meet one evening each month for three hours. Students will get a taste of everything from using fire hoses to inserting an IV into patients, “the same way we do it,” Westphal said. Earlier this year, the department hired one of the post’s graduates, Joey Gemza, who now helps teach Post 242.

“Because I’m a little younger than the other guys, I maybe have a little more in common with the cadets,” Gemza said at the post’s October meeting. “They see what the post did for me, so maybe that gives them an idea of what the post can do for them, too.”

Cadets also volunteer at various community events throughout the year, such as Riverfront Rendezvous, and this year began participation in a nationwide Explorer contest at the Minnesota State Fair.

For more information, contact Westphal, the post advisor, at the Stevens Point Fire Department at 715-344-1833 or [email protected]

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