Evanston Explorer program to provide students insight into fire service careers


Ina Yang/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston Fire and Life Safety Services launched the Explorer Program to teach youth ages 14-20 about fire prevention.

Ina Yang, Reporter

Evanston Fire and Life Safety Services will soon launch a new co-ed program to lead students into the world of firefighters and emergency service providers.

About 20 students, parents and teachers attended a Tuesday night open house at the Fire Administration building, 909 Lake St., to introduce the program. Fire Chief Greg Klaiber and fellow firefighters were also in attendance.

The program, which targets youths ages 14 to 20, employs methods such as classroom discussions, hands-on activities and opportunities to ride with a crew during an actual fire call.

The program will be held in collaboration with Boy Scouts of America.

Mike Nicholson, a dispatch officer working in the North Shore region, said his participation in a similar explorer program as a Boy Scout convinced him to pursue a career in fire services. As a dispatch officer, Nicholson said he felt like an integral part of the firefighting team, building strong bonds with his fellow workers.

Division Chief Thomas Janetske described the program’s curriculum. Students will meet twice a month as they first learn the basics through classroom discussions. Then they will apply what they learn to hands-on activities such as basic trauma care and on-site arson investigation. A one-time application fee of $15 will benefit the Boy Scouts of America.

“I think it’s a really great instrumental program that could kick-start a career,” said Heather Parker, mother of an Evanston Township High School senior. “Especially tenth to eleventh grade students, getting them interested in it, to help them understand the career itself and whether they can or cannot fit in to the career.”

A wide range of students present at the open house indicated interest in joining the program, including ETHS junior Jennifer Marin, one of three girls in attendance.

“I’ve always been interested in detective, firefighter, safety related careers,” Marin said. “I know there is not many girls that are interested in this type of career, but I want to make a difference, to let females know that they’re just as strong and can do things guys can.”

At the open house, Klaiber said the Explorer program is designed to engage young Evanston residents, one of his main goals since becoming fire chief.

“It’s been a wonderful career, and what I want to do is spark an interest in the youth of this, because this is a wonderful profession, very rewarding and very fulfilling,” Klaiber said to the prospective students.