A few years ago, Oak Creek District Chief Chuck Wisecup went to a firefighting training in Craig.
Several 15- and 16-year-olds showed up, and Wisecup asked himself, "What are they doing here?"
The teens -- part of a Fire Cadet Exploring program for youths -- put on their gear and worked alongside the adults. As Wisecup watched, he thought, "That's cool. It gives them a place of being in the department. It kind of gives them their own identity."
His daughter was persistent in asking Wisecup when he might get a similar program started in South Routt County. Now, Wisecup and several other firefighters are doing just that.
"Most kids are just fascinated by firetrucks and firefighters," Wisecup said. "I just felt it would be a good way to (reach out) to some of the local kids."
The "Learning for Life, Career Exploring" program will be open to boys and girls ages 14 to 18 and will be under the umbrella of the Boy Scouts of America.
Before the program can begin, the district needs commitments from at least five youths.
Teens who join the program will train with the district's volunteer firefighters once a month, with individual training once a month.
"Whatever we're learning, they're learning," Lomas said.
The fire explorers will learn about the organization of the fire department, fire safety, firetrucks and equipment, medical training, and wildland firefighting techniques and strategies.
They will learn how to put on firefighting suits and a breathing apparatus in less than one minute, the first steps to helping somebody who is hurt, and how to move water from a hydrant into a firetruck and then from a truck onto the fire.
They will participate in some real situations, and though they will not be entering any burning buildings, they might help with the command system or offer support to firefighters.
They will use real firefighting suits that are leftovers from the district's efforts to replace its suits this year.
Firefighters Rob Lomas and Erick Storebo are helping to get the program started.
Lomas became a firefighter after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "It's been tremendously rewarding for me. I've been able to help a lot of people with the training I got."
Later, he said, "I just saw that there were a lot of people doing important work. It struck a chord."
Storebo said the structure and chance to help the community would be positive for youths who want to learn about the department, as well as for those who may have gotten into trouble and need a chance to get back on track.
Lomas said he would encourage any teens who want to learn about firefighting and who are committed to the department to join.
"It's a great opportunity for youths in the community to acquire training and skills for life and for a possible career," he said.
Those skills include building trust with co-workers, working as a team and learning dedication.
Besides reaching out to youths, the program could help the district recruit future firefighters, Lomas said. And it helps the district's current firefighters learn as well, he said.
"My feeling is, when you teach someone something, you learn it in a whole new way," Lomas said.
For more information, call the Oak Creek Fire Department at 736-8104, or call Rob Lomas at 736-0801.
In related business:
n An election for the Oak Creek Fire District Board of Directors will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 4 at Oak Creek Town Hall. Incumbent Steven Jones, appointed member Chris Zuschlag, and candidates Sonja Norris and Ken DePaul are running.