When he was 15, Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District firefighter/paramedic Mike Sowards starting working with a cadet program at the fire department in Peebles. Now he’s helping start one with Paint Creek.
The program is open to kids ages 14 to 17.
“It’s for kids that have an interest in entering this field or are wondering what we do,” Sowards said Friday. “They will come into the program and basically be one of us. They won’t go into buildings on fires and things like that, but they will certainly get hands-on training like we do and the knowledge of what’s going on, what kind of calls we answer, and what goes on at the fire house. It’s on-the-job training until they’re 18.”
At that time, individuals are eligible to become certified firefighter/paramedics.
Applications are currently available at all three Paint Creek stations in Hillsboro, Greenfield and Rainsboro. The program was approved Tuesday the fire district’s board meeting. Applications and more information will also be available at the Highland County Fair.
The class is limited to 16 cadets at time, and Sowards said a handful have already inquired about it.
“The ultimate goal is to get them enrolled, get them to the place where they can become certified, then for them to become firefighters or volunteers,” Sowards said. “It’s essentially an in-house training program.”
Sowders said the goal is to have the cadets meet once a month. Once they are trained well enough, they will be allowed to go on fire runs.
“The goal is to push them as far as they can go without putting them in any danger. We want to get them in a position where they are confident and competent so they have the knowledge to know what they need to know to help,” Sowards said. “They won’t go into structures fires and things like that, but they’ll certainly get hands-on training like we do and knowledge of what’s going on.”
The cadets will help change and fill air bottles, retrieve tools from the trucks, and if the regular firefighters go into a defensive position where they’re fighting a fire from outside a structure, Sowards said the cadets can help with that.
The only real requirement, Sowards said, is that the cadets maintain a “C” average in all classes they’re enrolled in at school.
At their earliest convenience, the cadets will receive CPR and first aid training. Sowards said they will receive at least a Paint Creek T-shirt, plus full safety equipment, at no charge. He said the district will also hold fundraisers to help send the cadets to camps and training, because those things are costly.
Cadets will not be allowed to go on runs during school hours, after 10 p.m. on school days, or after midnight on non-school nights.
Sowards will run the program and will answer directly to the chief. There will be six other regular firefighter/EMTs that work with the cadets. The cadets will work out of both the Greenfield and Hillsboro stations.
There is no set number of meetings or amount of time a cadet will need to be in the program. But Paint Creek Public Information Officer Branden Jackman said the more time the cadets have in the program, the more they will be prepared to become certified.
“This is for the kids,” Jackman said. “There’s a lot of them out there on the edge of maybe doing some things they shouldn’t, and this is something to occupy their time and give them a skill.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.