Mentoring the future: Colleton’s Explorers learn about Fire-Rescue | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | November 24, 2017 5:00 am
Last Updated: November 22, 2017 at 9:00 am
Explorers get hands-on experience in all aspects of emergency jobs.
By GEORGE SALSBERRY
Mention Explorer Post 661 to Colleton County Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Scott Feather and the room gets a little brighter as he beams.
Next October, Explorer Post 661 will celebrate its 10th year as a facet of Colleton County Fire-Rescue.
“It is fun to watch these kids be involved, fun to watch them as they have an impact in the community,” Feather said. “That is where we come into play — we are something more than school, television and the phone. They are actually doing something positive and helping out.
“It is a worthwhile program. It requires a big commitment from their parents as well. I cannot stress enough how much we appreciate the parents’ support,” Feather said.
The advisors for the explorer post, Feather said, “receive a lot of support from people assigned to shift work.”
The department has at least 15 full-time firefighters who were junior members or Explorers, two-thirds of the department volunteer elsewhere. “They understand what these Explorers are going through. It is really cool to see the interaction. They are the future of the department. That is where I started,” Feather offered.
Those full-time firefighters can remember the first time they put on their turnout gear. “Some of our Explorers are 130 pounds to start with,” Feather said. “That’s 50 pounds of gear they are putting on.”
Then they learn the goal: “You want me to put all my gear and an airpack on and have it right in less than two minutes?”
“We don’t soften the curriculum so they think they can do it, they earn it. They earn that knowledge,” Feather said
Feather has been involved with the Explorers Post since it began. “Mike Rohaus was in on ground floor along with Deputy Chief David Greene and Fire Chief Barry McRoy.”
Feather, Rohaus (who is a station captain,) Shift Battalion Chief Brent Dalton and Steve Pelton, a volunteer firefighter who lives in Cottageville, conduct the post meetings twice a month.
Rohaus recently retired from Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and has been emergency services for over 40 years. Pelton is a retired U.S. Navy chief and continues to work full-time for the government.
The post currently has 17 members ranging in age from 14-18. “We have football players, Band of Blue members, cross country runners, soccer players, wrestlers, chorus members and those heavily involved in their church,” Feather said. The members come from the middle school, Colleton High School, Colleton Prep. Some are home schooled.
Explorers start at age 14 as juniors. “The first two years are junior status, not official Explorers. Get them in to give them a good foundation: to learn how to put their gear on, how to change air cylinders, put on air packs, things like that put them a few steps ahead,” Feather explained.
At the age of 16, they join the formal ranks of the Explorer Troop by submitting a Learning for Life application.
That application gives the Explorers the ability to attend the state fire academy classes. They have the ability to receive a provisional certification to become a Firefighter 1 or Firefighter 2 by the time they turn 18.
“They can’t actually go inside and fight a fire until they turn 18, but they can take all that training,” Feather explained. They can receive national and international certification, and can get college credit for their work.
“It sets up an individual up for a career,” he said.
Former Explorers have moved on to posts with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, full-time firefighters, full time members of EMS agencies. “That is really cool. It is really neat to have those kids move into that,” Feather said. “My oldest son is working at a neighboring county EMS agency, my second oldest is an Explorer. It is cool to see that lineage.”
Explorers are not required to take the state academy classes, but about three of every 10 Explorers do it. “They are side-by-side with adults, they are meeting the adult standard. They do very well.”
The advisors of the Explorer Post do not want the members to ignore their schooling, participation in extra-curricular activities and community and church responsibilities. “We want them to be kids, to enjoy getting involved church, family, school and then the fire department,” Feather said.
Training exercises are built into the twice-monthly meetings. “Other than live fire training, they do the same training.”
As they train on pump operations, they figure out calculations, they use math. “We talk to them about fire service history, algebra, science, show them what you do in school applies in the real world,” Feather said.
They learn about advancing hose lines, changing cylinders, firefighter safety and survival training and CPR. “They go through the same stuff as the big boys.”
There are certain calls they can go to if they have a driver’s license, but those are very limited.
They don’t go to the Interstate or respond to medical calls in their personal vehicles. They can go to structure fires and wild fires and help in a supporting role.
As long as it doesn’t intrude on school, the Explorers are allowed to spend the night at any manned fire station. They have to coordinate with the crew and their parents have to call on-duty supervisor to give their permission.
They work right along side the adult staffers, checking off trucks, cleaning and other household chores and training. Full-time members of the station undergo 16 hours of fire training and three hours of medical training monthly.
If they are at a fire station, they are able to respond — be on the engine and respond to a call. But it is up to the adult assigned to the engine what (if anything) they can do, if they are even allowed out of the fire engine.
“They are told to stay in the cab if the call is serious,” Feather said. “It is not Hollywood. Some things you don’t want a 14-, 15-, 16-, 17-, even an 18-year-old to see.”
At fire scene, the Explorers “are functioning in a support role, whether it’s bringing tools to the front door, changing air cylinders, getting flashlights, bringing water to the crews, helping move hose lines,” Feather said. “It is huge part of the operations.”
Feather said the Explorers working a fire scene sometime learn a little more — they learn the meaning of thank you. “When someone is having the worst day of their lives, and they come up to you and tell you thank you, those are two very heavy words they are telling you.”
Television and Hollywood are great public relations, but by the same token it is bad because the kids come in and think we just spray water, Feather said.
“Through training, they begin to realize there is history and English, and there is physical science, biology and chemistry. A kid might struggle with math, but once they realize there is math in something they like, they are able to relate it to real world,” Feather explained.
There comes a time, he said, when the Explorers can watch a television show and point out what the actors were doing wrong. “They are critiquing it because of what they learned. They soak up so much information.”
Go to ColletonFire.com. to learn more.