Evanston Fire Explorer program hosts open house


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

A firefighter participates in a first responder training. The Evanston Fire Department hosted an open house for people interested in the Fire Explorer Program on Wednesday.

Caitlin Chen, Reporter

The Evanston Fire Department hosted an open house Wednesday for the Evanston Fire Explorer Post 911 program, an initiative that trains students who are interested in fire service careers.

The program is available to North Shore residents between the ages of 14 and 20, with preference given to Evanston applicants. It was launched in 2012 under former fire chief Greg Klaiber, who now serves as Northwestern’s director of emergency management. Participants work with EFD firefighters and paramedics to learn about firefighting and participate in activities such as water rescues and fire control exercises to build camaraderie.

Roughly 30 people attended the event, held at EFD’s headquarters on 909 Lake St.

“You’re assigned to a company, which is either an ambulance or an engine,” Benjamin Newman, a former Explorer and part-time firefighter/paramedic at Beach Park Fire Department in Lake County, told The Daily. “Wherever the company goes, you go, because fire service is all teamwork. If one person goes, everybody goes.”

Participants use EFD’s fire and emergency medical equipment to practice rescues and vehicle extraction or to participate in ride-alongs to emergency calls, program lead advisor Megan Kamarchevakul said at the open house. Participants also train to become CPR-certified.

Though there were only five members in the program’s first year, Kamarchevakul expects that this year’s class will include 20 returning members and about 10 new members.

Fire Chief Brian Scott said at the open house that he is currently working on an apprenticeship program for graduates of the Explorer Program to have a more streamlined path to being hired by the department. As of now, students who graduate from the program gain preference points when applying for a job at the department but are still entered into a general applicant pool, Kamarchevakul said.

Jeremiah Thompson, a former Explorer and North Shore Academy sophomore who attended the event, said though his ADHD makes it hard to “keep being responsible,” the program helps keep him accountable.

“I’ve learned a bit more communication skills with people, like how to advocate when there’s something I can’t do alone and how to email more,” Thompson said. “I’ve learned various fire systems and security things, but I’ve also learned a lot of teamwork stuff.”

The program requires participants to attend at least 80 percent of the meetings, which are typically held twice a month. Participants also need to maintain good grades and refrain from using drugs and alcohol to stay in the program.

Kamarchevakul said the program helps invest in young adults that may become members of the department.

“Even if they don’t go on to join the Evanston department, they may join other departments, and they also just go on in life,” Kamarchevakul said. “We like to make sure that we’re teaching them respect and life skills in addition to leadership skills and being good members of society.”

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