City plans to establish cadet firefighter program
The Peabody Volunteer Fire Department has put its thinking cap on and has devised a plan it hopes will increase participation within the department.
At last week’s city council meeting, a cadet program was proposed by firefighter Jim Philpott and his son, Clayton. Pending approval by the city’s insurance, the program will allow high schoolers to shadow and learn from local firefighters, in hopes they will sign up to volunteer with the department after turning 18.
“We’re checking to see if we’re covered legally and insurance wise, if yes then the program will start immediately,” Mayor Larry Larsen said.
Students who sign up must be 14 or older, fill out an application, maintain good grades, and undergo a review of their behavior.
“Cadets can be male or female, but since there is a limited number of cadets we can take, preference will go to kids of firemen and those planning on pursuing a career in fire science,” Philpott said.
Philpott hopes the program will teach high school kids how the department operates, and get some interested in joining the department after turning 18.
“We’ll teach them basic skills of what we do and how to respond to calls,” Philpott said. “My son said at least six kids that he knows at the high school are interested in the program.”
Most of those kids he said, are like Clayton, children of local firefighting. Philpott said not only is passing on his firefighting skills to his son important, but it also means that when calls come in, Clayton will have a ride to the station.
“For those too young to drive, we’ll have to figure that out,” Philpott said.
Cadets will not answer calls right away. After completing many hours of training, the cadets will be allowed to respond to calls and shadow experienced firemen.
“A lot will depend on the call,” Philpott said. “If it’s a small structure fire then they will be able to go, they won’t be able to go into structures and when responding to grass fires will have to stay in the truck for safety reasons.”
Cadets also will not respond to traffic accidents, Philpott said.
“They’ll mostly watch and help out, without being in harms way, like if someone needs help holding a hose or something,” Philpott said.
Philpott said the kids he has talked to are excited about the possible program, and he hopes to soon get the green light.
“It’s a great way to show kids one way they can give back to their community,” Philpott said.
He hopes the program molds a new generation of firefighters for the station. Currently 18 people are available to respond to calls, but the department has 22 open spots.
“We’re having a hard time finding volunteers, all rural departments are, so it’s nice to show them they can volunteer with our department, or anywhere they end up. Areas like ours rely on volunteers just like them.”
Philpott himself was a young volunteer, beginning his career with the fire department in 1993.
“I grew up a block from the station and I always thought it was cool to watch the trucks come and go,” he said.
His son is planning on attending fire school after graduation to carry on Philpott’s firefighting legacy.