If all else fails, fall on it, says one of the first nine teens to complete their first semester of training in Red Deer County’s new fire cadet program.
Over the life of the three-year program, funded fully by the county with support from donors including Red Deer City Emergency Services and Firemaster, teenaged cadets learn the basic skills they would need to start a career in firefighting.
At the top of the list is hose evolution: The art of attaching and rolling out hoses to spray enormous volumes of water under extreme pressure.
A fire hose under pressure can buck like a large steer in the wrong hands. While firefighters generally work in pairs when they’re on a hose, it doesn’t take much strength once you’ve mastered the technique, says 16-year-old Amanda Schnatschneider. If a hose does jump out of control, you can always just fall on it and then shut it off, she says.
One of four girls on the nine-member roster, Schnatschneider hadn’t even considered a career in fire fighting when she first started with the cadets. It was something her mother had suggested as an extra-curricular activity to complement her school work.
With the certificate from her first year firmly in hand, Schnatschneider is keen on pursuing a career based on charging into burning buildings, sweating under a heavy suit of protective coveralls and holding the end of a pressured hose.
Fellow cadet Mac Crozman, 15, said he wants to be the guy who goes into a burning building to save lives while other firefighters work on tacking the blaze.
His father, who worked as both a paid and volunteer firefighter, encouraged him to join the county’s cadet program.
Assistant Chief Tom Metzger’s eyes twinkle as his young protégé talk about the skills they’ve already learned and the new techniques they will tackle in the second year of their three-year program.
Originally proposed by Assistant County Manager Ric Henderson, who is responsible for emergency services, the cadet program was introduced for the first time during the current school year, modelled after a similar program in Calgary.
Unlike Calgary, which charges its cadets $150 to take part, costs of the Red Deer County program are all covered, including T-shirts, uniforms and other materials. Sponsors have donated materials including fuel and dry chemical, saving a major expense that the county would otherwise have had to bear, said Metzger.
Ultimately, the cadets who advance through all three years of the program will still have to take advanced courses at the fire school in Vermillion, but will have received all the basic training they need in techniques specific to the county, he said.
The nine cadets who received their certificates on Sunday can all come back for more advanced training next year. However, it will likely be two years before a new group of cadets is started in the program, due mainly to the limited resources available, said Metzger.