By Jann Wiswall

The Ellicottville Fire Department (EFD) is looking for interested boys and girls ages 13-15 to become members of the newly formed EFD Explorer Program.

The program got off the ground when Zachary Golley (age 15) and Kyle Germain (age 14) asked their parents if they could tag along on some of their fire department calls. Those parents, EFD volunteers Debbie Golley and Rob and Kris Germain, said sure, and the boys were immediately hooked.

The parents realized that they may have hit on a great recruitment tool for future firefighters. So, working through the Boy Scouts of America’s Explorer Program format, they are developing the EFD program and have volunteered to serve as its advisors.

Students will learn firsthand about what firefighters do, how they work together to fight fires and handle emergencies and why firefighting is such an important job in our communities.

“Except for entering burning buildings, Explorers will be trained to do everything our regular volunteers do,” said Golley. “They’ll learn to handle equipment and hoses and provide support to other volunteers while on the scene.”

Rob Germain, who is the EFD’s Assistant Chief and Training Coordinator, will conduct a monthly training session for the Explorers. In addition, Explorers may attend any or all Tuesday evening trainings for all volunteers and the regular monthly EFD meetings.

Germain said Explorers “will receive texts from the Sheriff’s Department 911 operator asking them to respond to an emergency. They are permitted to go on as many calls as they can get to,” he said.

But Germain points out that parental support is essential to make this work for their children.

“Parents have to drive the student to the scene or fire hall,” he said, “so they must be able to commit time to the program as well.”

For the Germains, being a part of the volunteer fire community is a family passion. Kris Germain said that there are many extended family members who volunteer, so it was no surprise that Kyle became interested. In fact, Kyle expects to join the department when he turns 16.

“He went on a 2:30 a.m. call recently,” she said, and thought “it was pretty cool despite the hour.” He also rode on the fire truck during the Christmas parade. “A girl asked for a picture with him instead of Santa,” she laughed.

Cool factor aside, Golley emphasizes that there is a severe shortage of fire department volunteers, especially younger volunteers who can take the place of retiring volunteers. She and the entire department hope that bringing teens in early to learn about the value of giving back to the community and helping others will contribute to future recruitment.

“We also hope that the kids’ parents and other family members will get involved, too,” said Rob Germain.

The EFD is the only area fire department to offer an Explorer Program. It is open to teens in Ellicottville and most surrounding towns. For more information, send a message to the EFD through its Facebook page at Ellicottville Volunteer Fire Department. Or call Debbie Golley at 378-1170 or Rob Germain at 699-4293.