Fire Explorer Academy

Tristan Jolley, Fire Explorer Academy cadet, opens a fire truck door during an exercise on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. On the final day of the academy, Jolley and 10 other cadets demonstrated the skills they learned during the 6-day long program.

Tristan Jolley, Fire Explorer Academy cadet, opens a fire truck door during an exercise on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. On the final day of the academy, Jolley and 10 other cadets demonstrated the skills they learned during the 6-day long program.

A cadet runs with a fire hose during a demonstration on the last day of the Fire Explorer Program on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. Each cadet was challenged to perform search and rescue procedures, CPR, operate a fire hose, and put out a controlled fire in a timely manner.

A cadet runs with a fire hose during a demonstration on the last day of the Fire Explorer Program on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. Each cadet was challenged to perform search and rescue procedures, CPR, operate a fire hose, and put out a controlled fire in a timely manner.

A cadet runs into a smoke filled building to demonstrate his proficiency in the search and rescue skills taught during the Fire Explorer Program on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. During this challenge, cadets were expected to navigate a smoke-filled building to find a hidden manikin and return it to safety.

A cadet runs into a smoke filled building to demonstrate his proficiency in the search and rescue skills taught during the Fire Explorer Program on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. During this challenge, cadets were expected to navigate a smoke-filled building to find a hidden manikin and return it to safety.

Corey Garritsen, 11th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department inspector, reaches a hand out to invite others to watch the cadets navigate a smoke filled room on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. Smoke machines filled the rooms making it hard to see without proper gear.

Corey Garritsen, 11th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department inspector, reaches a hand out to invite others to watch the cadets navigate a smoke filled room on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. Smoke machines filled the rooms making it hard to see without proper gear.

Cadets crawl along the sides of the smoke filled building in search of a hidden body as they were taught during the 6-day Fire Explorer Program on Joint Base Andrews Md.,July 27, 2019. Cadets learned team building skills during exercise such as this on as well as when perfuming human carrying maneuvers and when offering medical assistance.

Cadets crawl along the sides of the smoke filled building in search of a hidden body as they were taught during the 6-day Fire Explorer Program on Joint Base Andrews Md.,July 27, 2019. Cadets learned team building skills during exercise such as this on as well as when perfuming human carrying maneuvers and when offering medical assistance.

Cameron Ordonez, Fire Explorer Academy cadet, emerges from a smoke-filled room after completing the search and rescue challenge on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. Following the challenge, cadets received a certificate of completion for the course and were considered CPR/AED certified by the American Red Cross Foundation.

Cameron Ordonez, Fire Explorer Academy cadet, emerges from a smoke-filled room after completing the search and rescue challenge on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. Following the challenge, cadets received a certificate of completion for the course and were considered CPR/AED certified by the American Red Cross Foundation.

Tristen Jolley, Fire Explorer Program cadet, poses for a photo on Joint Base Andrews Md., July 27, 2019. Cadets learned life-saving skills meant to empower them to confidently respond to emergency situations

Tristen Jolley, Fire Explorer Program cadet, poses for a photo on Joint Base Andrews Md., July 27, 2019. Cadets learned life-saving skills meant to empower them to confidently respond to emergency situations.

Cameron Ordonez, Fire Explorer Academy cadet, poses for a photo after completing his training at the Fire Explorer program on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. Family and friends of the cadets were invited to watch as the cadets demonstrated the skills they learned during the program.

Cameron Ordonez, Fire Explorer Academy cadet, poses for a photo after completing his training at the Fire Explorer program on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. Family and friends of the cadets were invited to watch as the cadets demonstrated the skills they learned during the program.

An 11th Civil Engineer Squadron fire safety helmet is left on the ground while 11th CES firefighters assist cadets during the Fire Explorer Program on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. Members of the JBA fire department have been orchestrating the FEP for over three years.

An 11th Civil Engineer Squadron fire safety helmet is left on the ground while 11th CES firefighters assist cadets during the Fire Explorer Program on Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 27, 2019. Members of the JBA fire department have been orchestrating the FEP for over three years.

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- The 11th Civil Engineer Squadron’s firefighter unit orchestrated a 6-day course to teach cadets, ages 14-18, the basics of fire safety, search and rescue, CPR, and other emergency response techniques here, July 22 – 27, 2019.

On the first day of the program, cadets marched into a classroom for their first lesson.

Instructors watched as 12 unenthusiastic students facing a Power Point presentation about medical emergency response procedures slowly became more interested as the day progressed.

“It's really fun to watch them on the first day,” said Laura Garritsen, 11th CES Fire Department inspector. “They don’t know what to expect, then you get to watch them get the hang of it.”

By the end of the first session of the day, cadets learned how to properly perform medical emergency response techniques such as dragging or lifting an injured body as a team.

For the last three years, Laura and Corey Garritsen, 11th CES Fire Department inspectors, have orchestrated this program, teaching 10 to 16 students each summer. Their instructor’s goals are to help young adults make informed decisions about pursuing careers in fire prevention, medicine or a related emergency response field.

“It's so inspiring how in just a few days these lessons mold the cadets’ lives,” said Laura. “I keep up with some of our cadets from past years and they have moved on to be in the Air Force, work in medicine and one [former cadet] is even at a local fire department.”

On the final day, friends and family members of the cadets were invited to watch them demonstrate what was taught in the program. Cadets were challenged to don fire gear, operate a fire hose, search and rescue a manikin from a smoke-filled building, conduct CPR on the manikin, and put out a controlled fire.

“I really enjoyed the Fire Explorer Program because it challenged me to learn real ways to save a life and made me feel like a hero,” said 17-year-old Kran McElvaine.  

Instructors hope students leave the program with a number of everyday life skills and the confidence to respond when faced with an emergency.

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