Senior Firefighter Dale Walling (right) shows Explorer Scouts Tom Surridge (left) and Andy Polmateer the new breathing apparatus technology. Surridge and Polmateer can don the equipment in less than 60 seconds.
Photo by Jeff Switzer/Woodinville Weekly.
by Jeff Switzer
Young people from Lynnwood, Bothell, Mountlake Terrace, and Woodinville converge on the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District every Tuesday night to learn another piece of the complicated duties of firefighters.
Offering the only program of its kind in the immediate area (Redmond also has a program), it's a strong draw for youth in South King County and North King County alike.
The Explorer Scouts program is limited to 16 members, and the current group of 12 is evenly split between men and women, ages ranging from 14 to 21. Many are students at area high schools and several attend community college while testing to get hired on with fire districts.
The program acts as a feeder into the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety Support team, the volunteer branch of the district. It also serves as an additional fire service presence in the community, donating their time and energy to community efforts.
"I've seen them in action and I'm exceptionally pleased with the effort and success of the program to this point," said Chief Jim Davis.
The majority of the group has had NEVAC training, a program offered at Scriber Lake High School in Lynwood that focused on fire skills and first aid and allowed students to earn their community first aid and CPR cards.
All have an interest in either firefighting, gaining their certification as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), or future work in the medical field as paramedics or doctors.
The group meets weekly and builds on their knowledge under the tutelage of veteran firefighter and Public Fire Educator David Leggett.
Leggett, who has been in the fire service for 15 years and has served with the Woodinville District for eight years, is proud of the group in the program.
"I'm really impressed by the caliber of students at the high school level and their drive towards their future careers," Leggett said.
He added that the energy level, the cooperation, and respect of this self-directed group has created a program within itself.
The program is seven months old, and in that short time, the Explorers from the Woodinville Headquarters have won accolades and helped the community.
Three months after its inception, the Explorer Scouts took second place at the Fire Muster Competition, where their 4-person team placed second only to the Seattle Fire District, losing by only two points.
Events included simulated search and rescue in a smoke-filled warehouse, first aid skills testing, timed breathing apparatus, target relays, sprinkler drills, and attaching hose couplings.
It was the first time the Woodinville group had participated, and it served to whet their appetite for next year's competition.
"Seattle is a top-notch team," Leggett said. "They were very impressed by Woodinville's first showing and are going to be watching out for them next year."
The scouts are currently learning how to set up fire scene staging, where danger areas are roped off, food, air and water are provided, and blood pressure is taken. Eventually, Leggett says, they hope for the scouts to be certified in staging.
The scouts are required to provide their own uniforms, patches, helmets and safety shoes. In the future, Leggett hopes they can get pagers and portable radios.
Current community activities for the Explorer Scouts include the City Hall holiday event, the All-Fools Day Parade and Adopt-a-Road.
This past year, they helped at the Woodinville Fireworks show and with concerts at Chateau Ste. Michelle and collected money for the Northwest Burn Foundation.
Explorer Scout Tom Surridge, age 18, hopes they can afford uniforms soon.
"The program is going well the first couple of months since we've started out," Surridge said. "But we're still at the ground level and have a lot to learn."
Surridge will be attending winter quarter at Edmonds Community College in the school's two-year Fire Command Administration Program and earning his EMT certification from the state.