BLHS seniors immerse themselves in cadet program
Teenagers running along 155th Street decked out in firefighter gear in the middle of the hot end-of-summer days should no longer surprise passersby in Basehor.
The six teens are participating in the Fairmount Township Fire Department cadet training program and are on the path, if they choose, to becoming firefighters. The program is run by the employees and volunteer firefighters of the department.
“We give them the tools to do whatever it is they want after this program,” Lt. Olie Olesen said.
Training intensified last week as the cadets climbed to the top of the station’s 105-foot fire ladder attached to the station’s primary fire truck.
“It was fun until you got to the top and the whole thing starts shaking,” said Basehor Linwood High School senior Brooke Olesen.
Olesen, 17, Olie Olesen’s daughter, and the other cadets are enrolled in the program through BLHS. Olesen hopes to apply her experience in the program to becoming an Emergency Medical Technician. She also plans to attend Kansas University’s School of Nursing.
Three days per week during the school year, these cadets will get hands-on experience with everything in the station. In January, the cadets will take a fire education course that, if passed, qualifies them to become first-level firefighters.
Jacob Price, 18, said being a firefighter is in his blood and that multiple members of his family have either worked or volunteered for area fire stations.
“It has been in the family, and I just want to continue that,” Price said.
Several of the other cadets joined the program on recommendations from friends and school counselors. Brandon Kerns, 17, and Connor Scherer, 17, said they enrolled after hearing about the class from friends.
“It’s something exciting to do and it’s different every day,” Scherer said. “We haven’t even scratched the surface of what we have to learn.”
The school year is still young, but the cadets have mastered the ladder climb and have run miles in full firefighter gear.
A 2012 cadet program graduate and current volunteer firefighter for the Fairmount Township Fire Department, Josh Stillian said the program changed his life. Now, he helps teach the cadets.
“I actually just did it to get out of school,” Stillian laughed, “but I fell in love with it.”
Stillian said the program taught the cadets about respect and instilled a level of responsibility that not many other things can. Stillian said the responsibility of potentially being able to save someone’s life is something every cadet and firefighter needs to take seriously.
The cadet program is now in its fourth year and has graduated at least three cadets each year.
The Fairmount Township Fire Department is opening its doors on Oct. 12 to visitors who would like to get a closer look at the station and its 105-foot fire ladder. Olie Olesen said the event will include an auction for a small fire truck and activities for all ages including fire truck rides.
On Sunday, Sept. 29, Kansas PRIDE, Inc, will host its 20th annual appreciation lunch for the Fairmount Township Fire Department. Charles Wilderson, the Basehor PRIDE director, said the event will be the last of its kind until someone else in the organization or someone in Basehor takes up the event.
“Nobody has stepped up yet,” Wilderson said. “It’s a community effort to say thank you to our volunteer firefighters.”