The Angola Volunteer Fire Company and the Boy Scouts of America have joined to create a special program for middle school students interested in firefighting.
The Angola Middle School Explorers Club 735, the first official middle school group in Erie County, held its inaugural meeting at Angola Fire Station No. 2 on Oct. 10, with six members in attendance.
The group – which consists of boys and girls in sixth, seventh and eighth grade – along with members of the Angola Volunteer Fire Company and its Explorers Post 735, met with Boy Scouts of America Greater Niagara Frontier Council District Director Greg Voyzey to learn what they will be doing.
“They will be developing career interests, and, in this case, learning about basic firefighting skills,” Voyzey said. “That is the purpose for the Explorers groups, which up to now have been for high school students, to learn career paths not only in firefighting, but also in the law enforcement and veterinarian fields.
“This is exciting for us to now be able to extend this opportunity to younger people,” Voyzey said. He added that the national Boy Scouts organization has been working on this program for a few years, has run several pilot programs that came back with very high marks and recently approved the idea for the individual councils to proceed with implementation.
Angola Fire Chief Chuck Carlson, a firefighter for nine years, the last three as chief, is ecstatic about the club.
“For almost 12 years, there has been the Angola Fire Explorers Post 735 for high school students, but it wasn’t until two months ago that we got the go-ahead to proceed with the club for our younger residents,” Carlson said. “With the help of Greg; my wife, Audrey; and our advisers Tony Corsaro and Ashley [Carlson] Kilburn, we have been able to get everything set up pretty quick.”
Right now, the Middle School Explorers Club members will learn the basics of firefighting, which includes: safety training, equipment and tools (nonhydraulic), basic first-aid, use of turn-out gear, protocol and how the trucks work.
“Members of the Explorers Post will be mentoring the younger group,” Audrey Carlson said. “Right now, the post meets three times a month and we will work in additional meetings for the club.”
She said that the group will be working with a fog machine, where they will train in a building filled with fog, to get a feel of what a firefighter must contend with when entering a smoke-filled building.
“They will not be at live burns, just like they will not be using hydraulic equipment,” Carlson said. “The club members will have a modified program, but we do want to give them some ‘real’ experiences. We will probably work with hoses, with very low water pressure, use the ladders at moderate heights and do extrications with crowbars.”
All the new Club 735 members were excited to be given a chance to become a member of a new ‘family,’ which has been a part of the Village of Angola for more than 131 years.
“When our house caught fire and I saw how hard the firefighters worked to save our home, I knew I wanted to become a volunteer when I got older,” one of the boys said. “I couldn’t wait to join the group as soon as it was available.”
Another member said that since he was 5, he has been asking to be a member of the Explorers. This is a dream come true for him, he said, and added he wants to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, a former firefighter.
To learn more about the organization, call the fire hall at 549-3022.