The Maumee Fire Department is starting a fire cadet program to educate high school students about the department and hopefully inspire some future volunteers.
The department plans to hold four-hour fire cadet classes one Saturday each month from November to May. The students will be well out of harm's way, but they may be feeling the burn as they practice spraying targets and climbing ladders.
"They'll get some experience with the tools we use," fire fighting bureau Chief Walt VanDromme said. "We're going to introduce the students to the fire service here in Maumee and what we do."
The fire cadet program, which is free of charge and open only to Maumee High School students, will teach participants about many aspects of emergency services. The program will cost the fire department a nominal amount for materials.
The curriculum will include CPR training, an introduction to fire fighting equipment, and information about fire prevention. Students will also get a chance to practice fire fighting skills, such as setting up ladders, handling hoses, and maneuvering while wearing heavy air packs.
"It's a basic fire fighting training course, but we've scaled it back and modified it for a high school level," Fire Inspector Brandon Loboschefski said. "We'll try to make it as much hands-on as possible."
The program is based on the training course that the Toledo Fire Department began offering to high schoolers last year. Several fire departments in northwest Ohio also offer Explorer post fire training for youth through the Erie Shores Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Many youth outreach fire programs around the state have been successful recruiting mechanisms for fire departments, and Maumee Fire Department members hope it will work for them.
The Maumee department employs about 20 full-time staff members, but the bulk of the department is made up of volunteers. Volunteers carry pagers and respond to fire calls from work or home. They are paid for each call they attend.
Right now, the department has 48 volunteers, which is 11 short of its ideal number.
So far this year, between 15 and 28 volunteers have responded to each fire call. Chief VanDromme said he would like to see an average of 33 to 35 volunteers responding to calls.
He said the department has had difficulty recruiting volunteers because the department requires that they be trained emergency medical technicians, and that demands a lot of time. Members of the Maumee depa
rtment have already gone through 4,000 hours of training this year.
The department also is trying to encourage young people to pursue a career in emergency services with a scholarship through the Maumee Firefighters Association. The association awarded its first $1,000 scholarship in June and plans to give it out each year to a graduating high school senior pursuing an emergency services career.
Chief VanDromme said he hopes that between 10 and 15 students will sign up for the fire cadet program this fall.
Maumee High School officials have agreed that fire officers can set up informational booths about the program in the student cafeteria during lunch hours.
"We are always pleased to work with the community any way we can to give our students additional career opportunities," Larry Caffro, the high school principal, said.
"This is certainly a promising program."