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Fire department, Boy Scouts propose explorer program for students

The Troup County Board of Commissioners listened to a presentation from the Troup County Fire Department about starting an Explorer program with the fire department.

Chris Largent, district executive at Chattahoochee Council Boy Scouts of America, said the explorer program is designed for students between sixth grade up to 20 years old to learn about a particular profession. There are two different categories — an explorer’s club, which is for middle schoolers with more educational opportunities, and when students hit 14 years old, they can join the explorer post for hands-on experience.

“What it does is it allows youth between the ages of 14 to 22 actual hands-on experience within a specific career path,” Largent said. “They would be able to do a lot of the activities and learn things that firefighters do on a daily basis.”

The Boy Scouts of America sponsors the program, and it provides youth protection training for adults as well as training for crew advisors. The crew advisor for the Troup County Fire Department would be Rusty Brown, the fire department’s training captain and safety officer.

Largent said the boy scouts also provide general liability for those in the program for most activities, excluding putting out fires.

Currently, there aren’t any fire department explorer posts in Troup County. However, there are explorer posts at the LaGrange Police Department and the Troup County Sheriff’s Office, and Largent said both grew by 40 percent in the past year.

“It is very popular and the program itself can be catered to any skilled trade and any workforce development,” he said. “The fire, EMS and police are the top three.”

Troup County Fire Chief John Ekaitis said the students would use older equipment to work with the younger students. However, it would provide a great experience for those interested in pursuing a career in firefighting.

“That’s one of the great things about this program because that they would have a step up on somebody coming in that wants to be a firefighter,” he said. “They’ll know basic information because they’ll learn about hoses, nozzles, how to cooperate and everything. So, when they go through their rookie school or cadet school at the Fire Academy, they’ll be well aware of what they’re coming into to do really well.”

Ekaitis said there’s a potential of about 20 firefighters leaving in the next few years, with the majority leaving due to retirement.