The Junior Firefighter Cadet Training Program in the RM of Hanover allows teenagers ages 16-17 to join our local fire departments.
Fire Prevention Officer and Lead Instructor with the RM of Hanover, Gary Kehler, runs the training program.
He says it’s a great opportunity for those interested in becoming a firefighter, plus, they can use the program to get their volunteer credit for school.
“It gives them a really good base and understanding. Now when people are looking to hire somebody, it gives them life experience.”
It can especially help if they become a cadet at the same place they apply to become a firefighter.
“The next opening that comes up. Oh, this was a really good cadet. Let's maybe look at hiring them.”
The cadets are involved in all aspects of training. Kehler says they even get to go train in Brandon.
“We also take them to Brandon when we do some training out there. They get to come up for the weekend and see what it's like at a very large training center. And once we get comfortable with them, they're actually attending calls.”
They aren’t able to do everything the other firefighters do, such as going to car accidents. However, they can still do quite a bit.
“We limit what calls they go to. They can come to fire calls, grassfires, alarms, we restrict them on coming to car accidents. We just don't have enough control there. There's too much trauma, sometimes too much out of our control that we don't want to expose them to.”
Joining the firefighters for some of the fires gives them the valuable experience of actually being on a fire scene.
They want to give teens that experience, while also keeping them as safe as possible. So they keep the cadets away from dangerous situations, and give them safer roles such as supporting the firefighters.
He says it’s very helpful to have them there. The cadets take some of the easier tasks, so the firefighters can all completely focus on directly putting the fire out.
“It's all controlled, so we're making sure that they're very safe. I can have them huffing hose, just hydrating guys, making sure everybody got water or Gatorade.”
Hanover has four stations and they are allowed to have two cadets per station.
They started the program over a year and a half ago, and cadets who have been a part of it have found their time there to be a good experience.
Isabel Dueck, a 17-year-old from Grunthal, is a cadet currently in the program.
She was strongly encouraged by one of the former cadets to sign up and give it a try.
“It's been awesome, I’ve very much enjoyed it. Just getting to know everybody, getting to see what they're doing as firefighters, and just understanding more."
Her goal is to go from a cadet to working as a firefighter.
She says it has been great being able to learn along with the level 1 firefighters - level 1 means they are training to become a firefighter.
“It was definitely a highlight getting to know the guys that are doing their level 1, learning with them, and then watching them actually walk through what they just learned.”
She says the first time on the scene gave her a rush of adrenaline.
"It's interesting to see what actually goes on. It is controlled chaos for sure.”
Dueck says it was great to see how close the firefighters are to each other.
“Well, I wasn't expecting how much they seemed like a family. That was really interesting to see."
She was also shocked at how heavy the gear was. The first few times putting it on and walking around in it were a bit difficult.
“Your helmet is actually very heavy. They make it look easy wearing all the gear. After a while, you get used to it.”
Dueck encourages teens who are interested in the program to apply.
“If you're thinking about it, definitely apply for it and try to do it. It’s a great learning experience. I definitely recommend it.”