Explorer photo

Skylar Davis, 13, and her sister, Cheyenne, 15, both of Westville, practice on a training dummy at the Westville Fire Station. A class of 13 students are learning CPR through the Firefighters Association Explorer Post.

There’s no denying the fact that emergency work is in Kalyn Bates’ blood.

The 17 year old has watched her father and brother fight fires on the Sidell Fire Protection District, the former as the chief and the latter as a volunteer. Her mother is an emergencies services technician — an angle that interests the Sidell teenager.

It’s the whole fact of being able to save someone’s life from danger they could be in, either choking or something else or in need of CPR,” she said. “Be their hero.”

Bates is taking the step to realize that interest as a paramedic, joining as many as 15 teenagers from the area in the rejuvenated Illinois and Indiana Firefighters Association Explorer Post.

Mark Ames II of the Westville Area Fire Protection District is running the Explorer Post, which is a division of the local Boy Scouts Troop 4911. Explorers are referred to as cadets.

Just a few classes have been held so far, but Ames said it’s an enthusiastic group with some, like Bates, who come from firefighting families and others who decided to try the class out of curiosity.

And all were ready to head for a fire.

“Everyone wanted to jump on the big red truck,” Ames said. “But a lot of things come before that.

“When they come of age, they’ll be prepared for that,” he added.

The group, ranging in age from 14 to 18 years old, usually meets twice a month at the Westville Area Fire Protection District. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, more widely known as CPR, was on the agenda when he class met on Monday. Before that, the curriculum included a little history of firefighting, dating back to the days of Benjamin Franklin.

Some of the CPR techniques — worked on during two evening classes — surprised 16-year-old Brad Smith of Westville.

“I didn’t know how hard work it was doing CPR,” said Smith, Ames’ son.

He said he intends on becoming a volunteer firefighter.

“I’ve always want to do it,” Smith said. “(The class) is an opportunity to get it started and do something with it.”

Ames said the program ran for almost five years in the mid-1990s then fell by the wayside. Then, a few months ago, he and I and I Association president Ryan Allison talked about the idea of starting it back up again.

Since it started anew, the Explorer Post has gotten support from the parents as well as other fire protections districts — Oakwood and Sidell among them — which are willing to lend a hand with equipment and a training location.

Beginning with classes next year, the cadets will travel to some of the different fire protection districts in the county.

Ames said he believes in recruitment at a young age when it comes to volunteer fire fighting.

“It’s important to keep the young blood coming in,” he said. “The burnout rate in firemen volunteer service is five to seven years. You have to keep the new ones coming in.”

“The cadet program gives us the opportunity to give them a couple years of training before they’re of age to go out on calls,” Ames said.

The group has reorganized at just the right time. The University of Illinois will host the week-long national gathering for Explorer posts. By that time, Ames said he expects the cadets to be running the post on their own, electing chief and other officers.

With training classes for the teenagers of the Explorers Post, Ames says he receives a review on the fundamentals himself that helps to keep his own skills sharp.

“It’s a learning experience for everyone,” he said.

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