RCFD to hold Explorer Recruiting Open House

Richland Center Fire Department to hold an Open House for Explorer Recruiting

The Richland Center Fire Department will be hosting an open house at the fire station on Thursday night January 28, 2016 between the hours of 7pm and 9pm for youth in the community between the ages of 15 and 21 years old and through the 8th grade that are interested in becoming a member of the Departments youth group.

Stop by the Open House or fill out an application found on the Explorers page.

In the summer of 1987, the members of the Richland Center Fire Department under then Chief Francis Burke decided to begin looking into starting what was known as a Fire Explorer group.  This would be a group of young men or women who had an interest in public service, particularly the fire service, who would be trained in the essentials of firefighting and assist the Richland Center Fire Department with fire calls and activities.

The Boy Scouts of America was contacted and it was determined that insurance for these young members would be covered by the Boy Scouts.  It was decided to give the program a try and see how things went.

Members of the Fire Department volunteered to be the first advisors for the group.  Captain Barry Roghair was the lead advisor with William Muth Jr. also an advisor.  Captain Roghair established the administrative paperwork to start the group.  The advisors, Chief Burke, and the Fire Department Officers began to decide on training.  Firefighters turned to their families to seek interest in the group. The children of the firefighters began talking with their peers and interest grew rapidly among young people in the community.

On November 1, 1987, the first gathering of the Richland Center Fire Explorers – Post 2106 was brought to order.  This was known as the “first nighter”.  Those in attendance included Pat Bauer, Dan Brewer, Chad Kanable, Arnold Fruit and Corey Kanable.  The first meeting was held on November 15, 1987.  The same young men attended and welcomed a new member, Steve Krueger.  Chad Kanable was elected the first Post President, Pat Bauer was elected the first Vice President, and Dan Brewer was elected secretary.

To have a post in existence, a post charter was created through the Boy Scouts of America.  On that charter was the agreed upon name, the Richland Rangers Fire Explorers – Post 2106.  A cap of twelve members would be established, a cap that would be increased in years to come to fifteen due to the success and interest in the group.

The group started out with instruction from their advisors.  Within about a year, full body rain suits were purchased for the group by the fire department.  Blue construction helmets were also issued to the members.  It was decided that the members needed something for protection as they assisted the department.  Rules had already been established by the Department and by the Boy Scouts of America that an Explorer would not do any interior firefighting, nor would they be put in a position of imminent danger on a fire scene.  They could help on the exterior of a structure fire and assist with mop up after fires occurred.  As part of their training they were visited in a meeting by then Richland Center Police Chief Craig Chicker who taught them techniques for traffic direction.  The group would add this to their list of duties when the help was needed.

Today of the 44 current members of the Richland Center Fire Department, 13 are prior Explorers. Past Explorers that are current Department members have 165 years of combined service to the Department. Being a member of the Explorers has opened many doors for youth in other emergency services fields. Past Explorers have gone on to careers on full time departments, become EMT’s and paramedics, law enforcement officers, prison guards, staff in hospital emergency rooms, instructors at a fire academy, SWTC instructors, air ambulance flight medics, 911 dispatcher, and of course members of the Richland Center Fire Department.

The training given to the Explorers through the years has changed to keep up with the firefighting profession. Explorers today are allowed if they choose to take the same firefighter classes as new Department members in addition to the training from their advisors on the Department. These classes are taught by an instructor from Southwest Technical Collage in Fennimore. The only exception for the Explorers is they are not permitted to participate in the live burn at the end of their class. They can participate in this burn when they become a regular member of any fire department. At that time they receive their class completion certificates.

Current safety equipment given to the Explorers is the same as Department members receive. The old rain coats served the start-up group well but as the post progressed throughout the years the need for better protective gear was realized. Explorers are also issued pagers to notify them if there is a fire, and the youth are encouraged to respond to the station. The pagers are not to be worn in school, and the Explorers are no longer requested to leave school for large incidents.

The group has gone through a generation change and currently has only one member. Rules established by the Boy Scouts require five members to keep an active chartered group. The Fire Department is holding the open house as a recruiting effort to find enough youth interested in joining the program so we can keep it active.

In the Explorer program, members participate in a wide variety of extensive firefighting training. Some of the things you will learn as Fire Explorer include fire safety, CPR, fire extinguisher use, ladder safety, hand tool use, teamwork, Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) use and maintenance, fire hose use, safety around large vehicles, fires suppression and prevention, building construction, plus much, much more.

The training program is structured in 3 levels. Level 1 has a new member receiving education about fire science and fire behavior as well as safety rules and policies. Level 2 Explorers are trained with tools and equipment at the station to learn the basics, than the group is taken outside for hands on training sessions. After proving their knowledge to the advisors if the group and passing many skills tests Explorers may be recommended to a Level 3.

A Level 3 Explorer is permitted to ride on select fire trucks to a scene and work alongside firefighters at fire scenes. There are some limits however as Explorers are not permitted to drive department apparatus, operate pumps, the Aerial Truck, or Jaws of Life equipment. Also prohibited is response to medical calls or vehicle accidents, and while they may work close to, Explorers will not enter into a burning structure. The SCBA training Explorers receive allows them to change and fill bottles in firefighters SCBA units as well as inspect and return them to service after a call.

Teamwork and leadership are skills that College and Employment Applicants need to be successful in the development of for their future. The Fire Explorer program will give you these benefits along with assisting to improve your self-confidence, develop your social network, give you the path to a career opportunity, and allow you to serve your community. Explorers will be able to work and network with firefighters, EMT’s, law enforcement officers, and other public safety responders. You also get the satisfaction of helping others when they may be having the worst day of their lives.

Explorers will learn to follow oral and written directions quickly, sometimes while under stress and pressure. You will work hard and efficiently to accomplish all tasks that are given to you, to their full extant and beyond. In the fire service the expectation of success is high with no or little room for error. Explorers will learn to work professionally as a team for success.

Most importantly you will establish and maintain courteous and cooperative relationships with your associates and the public. You will develop a loyalty towards your fellow Explorers and RCFD members, as part of the brotherhood of firefighting.

The Explorers meet at the Richland Center Fire Station twice a month on the second and fourth Thursdays from 7-9pm. If required to fit the needs of the group as a whole, other nights have been used for training in the past, and that could be looked into again. All training is overseen by members of the Fire Department. Applicants under the age of 18 will need a parent or guardians approval to participate in Exploring. This will be verified by the advisors. Explorers are issued and must use protective gear just as firefighters have for their safety.

There is no financial cost to the Explorer to participate in the program, only the commitment of your time. Explorers are also invited to regular fire meetings, and at all training levels are welcome to respond to the fire station for calls.

Are you interested in joining the Fire Explorers? Is this program something you think your son or daughter, or maybe a grandchild, may be interested in, talk to them and ask. If so please contact us by one of the following methods.

Do you know a RCFD Firefighter or Explorer, they may be a friend, neighbor, relative, of co-worker, talk to them about the Explorers.

Call the RCFD Station and leave us a message anytime 608-647-4556 we will follow up on all messages left at the station.

Contact us for more information.

Stop in at the open house at the fire station on Thursday January 28, from 7-9pm.

We look forward from hearing from you!