Since the beginning of this school year the Montesano Fire Department has been running a fire cadet program in cooperation with the Montesano Junior/Senior High School. The program is in its first year and is open to high school juniors and seniors.
Classroom work is held during the course of the week while participating students benefit from hands-on training in an all-day session one Saturday per month. Currently 19 students are enrolled in the class.
Fire Chief Corey Rux explained the program is modeled after a basic fire fighting academy and aims to serve as a stepping stone for those interested in either volunteer or career fire fighting.
“It’s kind of like a head start program where we’re able to give them the knowledge, abilities, and skills of a Firefighter 1 Certification while they’re still in high school,” Rux explained.
According to Rux, the program doesn’t just dwell on the technical skills associated with the fire service. It also builds character, imparting transferable skills like accountability, respect, discipline, integrity and team work.
Senior Connor Parkinson said he took the class because he wants to pursue a career in fire fighting, though he acknowledged some of his classmates do not.
“We all have some interest, but not all of us are looking to go into a career, we’re just interested,” he said.
Blake Bradshaw, also a senior, said he is currently volunteering with the department and also wants to pursue a career.
“My father and my grandfather are both in the (fire) service, so it became a real interest to me,” Bradshaw said.
He added that he’s learned a considerable amount of information already from both the classroom work and the training activities.
Students were scheduled to learn search and rescue techniques when The Vidette visited a Saturday class on Dec. 2, but first they engaged in an intensive, timed practice session focused on getting fully dressed in their personal protective equipment and donning their breathing apparatus. The state testing standard is 60 seconds for completion of each, though, as a class, students were working on coming in at fewer than 90 seconds.
“Making sure that every movement is purposeful, that there’s just no wasted movement, and as you get ready for an actual emergency, you have that muscle memory to just do it,” Lt. Jake Sainsbury, a class instructor, said of the drills.
“I think it’s a good thing for our community, our department and the students themselves,” Lt. Jeff Smith, also an instructor, said of the program.
Smith said he’s witnessed a drastic amount of improvement from students since the course began.
“There’s a few here who have started volunteering with us who are down here doing it on their off time as well, and they’re keeping up with the guys who have been here for 10 years. Learning every day is the key to this program,” Smith said.
Smith added that he would have benefitted from attending such a program himself, and Sainsbury agreed.
Asked what it takes to succeed in fire fighting, Sainsbury said, “You do have to have the drive. It’s a lot of hard work, but I think for me, or anyone, it’s the willingness to learn.”