Town fire department reviving teen explorer unit

MERRIMACK – The Merrimack Fire Department hopes to kindle interest in a program that teaches teens about fire and emergency careers.

Later this month, the department will kick off its explorer program, which is designed to give young people hands-on training and learning experiences with firefighters and EMTs, said Gene Kuczewski, program coordinator.

“They’re actually going to experience what some of these adults experience,” Kuczewski said. “They’ll have a better sense of what it is to be involved, and what fire rescue means.”

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The department hosted an explorer program until about 2003, when it got put on a back burner. Kuczewski – a retired educator and an emergency medical technician – said he always wanted to get back to working with kids. With support from the chief and other department members, he helped resurrect the program.

Those accepted into the program will learn about disaster relief, fire engine operations, fire behavior, arson investigation, forcible entry techniques, emergency medical skills, hazardous materials training, mediation skills and wildfire behavior.

In addition, after introductory training, explorers will work side-by-side with professional firefighters and paramedics in real emergencies, performing routine, supervised tasks, Kuczewski said. Some examples include retrieving equipment, deploying hose lines, being on-scene with fire investigators or taking patient vital signs.

The program would also lay a foundation for those wanting to enter the fire academy, and participants will earn a CPR certificate.

Kuczewski said he also hopes to include explorers in fire prevention work at schools and in general community service projects.

To join the Explorer Program

The program will involve character building, discipline, ethical decision making, problem solving and leadership opportunities, Kuczewski said.

“We want the best out of them,” had added. “All the good stuff.”

On Thursday, the department will hold an introductory meeting for parents and potential explorers.

In two weeks, those who’ve decided to pursue the program will submit an application, medical forms, references, a paragraph about their interest and a liability waiver.

After acceptance, explorers will start the program and attend meetings and events every two weeks until the end of the year. The meetings are two hours long, with part classroom learning and part hands-on learning.