HOLTVILLE — Absent in recent years, the Holtville’s Fire Department Explorers came roaring to life in August when Chief Alex Silva said he recognized it would be a valuable tool to develop future firefighters.
Helping the chief lead the effort are firefighters
Raylene Tapiceria, Eric Espinoza, Marco Flores and John Robles.
“I’m so excited, as all of the crew
are, to see the Explorers happening again,” said Tapiceria. “We all
do the training. The Explorers are an ongoing process, it is not a school with
a summer break. Our current group are all high school students.”
Candidates Commit to Training
After the initial orientation last summer
that drew six students and their parents, the Explorers expanded to eight members
by fall. Three each are from El Centro and Calexico, and two from Holtville.
All currently attend high school and are 18 or 19 years old. However, none have
yet to enroll in the fire academy for fire science or emergency medical technician
at Imperial Valley College.
“They all plan on taking classes. Not
sure when they’ll enroll but I assume it’ll be in the summer because they’re
still in school,” Tapiceria said.
However, the candidates made clear from
the orientation not all are committed to a firefighting career. One would like
to be a game warden, while another intends to become a registered nurse, she said.
All eight have clearance to go out on fire
“They can do a ride-along but they
cannot enter a burning building,” said Tapiceria. “Also, they can’t
go to the top of a building roof. But they can accompany the full-timers to a
structural, brush or vehicle fires.”
Some of the tasks Explorers are capable of
handling are switching out the oxygen bottles firefighters need to use to
prevent smoke inhalation. Explorers also go out on medical emergency calls.
They are learning to take vital signs such as pulse, blood pressure,
temperature and a patient’s level of consciousness.
The Explorers receive the demanding
physical training to get into peak shape to handle the daily rigors of a fire
“They also do training with ladders,
ropes and other equipment we use and how it works,” said Tapiceria.
“We also take them out to use a hose that’s charged (full of flowing
water), which is not easy to handle.”
Explorers make use of some local parks,
such as the field behind Holtville Middle School, where they do pump training.
The department has four fire trucks with
water tanks, one from the Imperial County Fire Department. Its fleet includes
brush-fire and structural-fire trucks. Explorers are not authorized to train in
driving the trucks.
Explorers Bond with Mentors
“We don’t ask them to do routine
maintenance at the fire station,” said Tapiceria. “Nor do we press
them to help wash the fire engines–that’s our job. Our focus is to develop
discipline, self-esteem and engage in community involvement.”
Tapiceria said the Explorers are doing
great so far and came out for the Carrot Festival serving in the department’s
“They want to learn what it takes to
become a firefighter,” she said. “Aside from that, it’s the
friendship we build with them.”
She also pointed out the full-timers are
not only advisors but are like a family. An explorer with a personal concern
can always find an empathetic ear from one of the trainers.
“No matter the
eventual career they go into, the training they will get here will serve them
in whatever profession they choose,” she added.