Evanston’s Fire Explorers Program holds training sessions starting this month


Photo courtesy of Jorge Melendez

Evanston Fire Department Station Five. EFD hosts the Fire Explorers Program starting this month.

Skye Garcia, Reporter

From the age of 8, Niko Stefani knew he wanted to be a firefighter. 

Stefani said his mother spent a lot of time with police officers and members of the fire department because of her role on a local committee, and he often accompanied her. 

“I was always going up to the local fire station,” Stefani said. “I kind of grew up in a fire house.”

At 14 years old, Stefani joined Evanston’s Fire Explorer Program. The Evanston Fire Explorer Post 911 is a program for young adults between the ages of 14 and 20 who are interested in the fire service. The program was established about eight years ago, Program Director Captain Megan Kamarchevakul said. About 30 members can register for the program at a time. 

The program holds semimonthly meetings at one of the city’s five fire stations. 

Stefani received his associate degree in fire sciences, and he is now on his way to becoming a full-fledged firefighter at the age of 21. Now, Stefani spends his spare time volunteering for the same program he participated in as a teenager.

This year, the first meeting was held April 12. Instructors taught participants how to use and put on pieces of common firefighting equipment, like turnout gear and self-contained breathing apparatuses, Kamarchevakul said. 

“This program is geared to show them what the fire service is all about,” Kamarchevakul said. 

Kamarchevakul said the program aims to give back to Evanston and provide career opportunities for the city’s youth. 

She believes it is important to recruit public service officers directly from Evanston. 

“We want our department to be a good representation and reflection of the community,” Kamarchevakul said.

The next meetings will teach the explorers basic skills of firefighting and emergency medical services. Explorers will learn to pull fire hoses, hook up hoses to hydrants and measure vital signs and heart rate in order to treat residents at the scene of fires, Kamarchevakul said. 

James Brown, another former explorer, also stayed connected with the program and now works as a firefighter in Evanston.  

“It’s a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of a career in public service,” Brown said. 

Brown joined the Fire Explorers Program when he was 20 years old. He said the program taught him the importance of being a team player.

“You have to learn to follow before you lead,” Brown said. 

Explorers also participate in several “competency courses,” which consist of a series of obstacles, Stefani said. These courses are meant to be both fun and educational.

Explorers can also receive live fire training. They learn about thermal layering, the separation of different temperatures within a fire, and the significance of the color of smoke, which can suggest the volatility of a fire, Stefani said. 

More advanced students are given the opportunity to participate in ride-alongs throughout the year, responding to emergency calls alongside Evanston firefighters, Kamarchevakul said.

For Stefani, firefighting has always been a dream job. He loved to see people excited to come back to the program when a new session began. Now, he’s excited to go back to the fire department not just every year, but every day.

“I’m excited to get up and go to work,” Stefani said. ”Most of the time,” he joked.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @SkyeAGarcia

Related Stories:

Evanston Fire Department announces new Fire Captain Curt Koopman

Northwestern donates second fire engine to Evanston Fire Department

Evanston Fire Explorer Post 911 program hosts open house