Town of Ponoka youth Mathew Hager (left) is a youth fire cadet who signed up for the Ponoka County East District Fire Department fire cadet program. The department will bring two youths annually to get trained with the department. Iris Hesselink is the other fire cadet in the program.

Town of Ponoka youth Mathew Hager (left) is a youth fire cadet who signed up for the Ponoka County East District Fire Department fire cadet program. The department will bring two youths annually to get trained with the department. Iris Hesselink is the other fire cadet in the program.

Ponoka fire cadets get certified

A fire cadets program is giving Ponoka youths first-hand firefighter training.

A fire cadets program is giving youths first-hand firefighter training.

Two Grade 12 students from Ponoka just finished off the fire cadet program hosted by the Ponoka County East District Fire Department. Iris Hesselink, from Ponoka County, and Mathew Hagar, from the Town of Ponoka, heard about the program and both were eager to take it on.

They had different reasons why they wanted to take part. Hesselink wants to be an architectural technologist and her goal is to get a greater understanding of building design and how fires affect structures.

Hager’s experience will help him when he joins the Canadian military, which he intends to start this year. Both cadets trained with other members of the department going through their Level 1, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1001 certification.

For Hager the training gave him a greater understanding of what it takes physically and mentally to be certified.

The tests included physical testing over the course of a weekend at the Red Deer fire training grounds as well as a written portion with 100 questions. “Some of the things you learned on the Saturday (in Red Deer) you could remember them on the written test,” explained Hesselink.

Hager recommends other youth apply. “If you want to get out of your comfort zone, I’d say come try this.”

The training has given the cadets a change in perspective on home safety. “It makes you realize some of the things you are doing,” said Hesselink.

Iris Hesselink - Ponoka Youth Fire Cadet

Hager suggested that it has given him a greater awareness of his surroundings plus it provided him with an activity where he learned new skills. “It’s a lot funner than sitting at home playing video games.”

Both are welcome to stay on with the department but in a few months Hager will be taking basic training in the summer and Hesselink will be going to school at SAIT this fall.

Dennis Jones, Ponoka County’s regional Fire Chief and director of emergency management, was pleased with this first year of the fire cadets program. He said there were two cadets for each east and west district (Rimbey and area) departments. They completed the same course and he feels it will benefit them in the long-term.

“These kids will actually earn up to five credits, not only for work experience but also for leadership and that will appear on their transcripts,” said Jones.

Classes were held every Wednesday night from November, 2016 to April.

“It’s a way to get these kids interested and a way to give back to the community as well,” explained Jones of the reason behind the program.

“Eighty per cent of the geographical area of Canada is covered by volunteer firefighters.”

The program is open to any high school for youths 17 years old and up in the county and will be held annually.

Between the east and west departments there were 21 NFPA 1001 Level 1 certifications handed out, which includes the fire cadets.