Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate

Twenty-one local youths are part of the inaugural class of Firefighter Explorers in Del Norte County.

The Firefighter Explorer Program began earlier this year with about five participants and has grown as volunteer firefighters teach teenagers what it takes to extinguish flames safely.

It's part classroom discussion and part hands-on training.

Each month is dedicated to a certain firefighting aspect. October's is all about auto extraction and last week the youths - ages 14andndash;17 - sawed through and axed windshields and pried car doors open with the Jaws of Life device.

It was Firefighter Explorer Lt. Maggie Aleman's favorite scenario of the year.

"We get to do lots of scenarios which makes this fun and interesting," said Aleman, a sophomore at Del Norte High School.

Aleman and her fellow Explorers have learned about station etiquette, tool and equipment identification, CPR and first aid, fire behavior, wildfires and how to use fire hoses.

They will finish out the year by being introduced to search and rescue techniques, and then will review all they've learned.

There is a $20 annual membership fee for the Explorer program, which is affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America.

Crescent Fire Capt. Dana Reno is the training coordinator.

"If they decide this is something they want to do, their transition into the real fire world will be much easier," said Reno.

Aleman and fellow Explorer Lt. John Steven both hope to eventually become firefighters.

"I want to be a firefighter when I grow up, and I thought this would be a good start," said Steven, a junior at DNHS.

He wants to become a firefighter because he wants to help people.

"I thought this would be a good way to do it," said Steven. "And I don't want a desk job, either."

Soon Steven and his compatriots will be joining ride-alongs on fire trucks.

"They'll be able to hang out with the engineer," said Reno.

Though they won't be a part of active firefighting, they may be called upon to help with crowd control and other indirect activities at a fire scene.

Applications to become an Explorer can be picked up at the Crescent Fire Protection Department Hall, 255 W. Washington Blvd. Potential Explorers will likely have to attend four meetings before joining the program.

All Explorers are also issued firefighter turnouts.

Reach Anthony Skeens at