High school students at the Fire Explore Program on Sept. 25.

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For firefighters, the ladder to success often leans against a burning building. In Fire Explorers, youth aged 14-20 interested in becoming firefighters, have the opportunity to learn the basic skills and be part of the action that quells the fire and rescues those inside. This fall, Evanston’s Fire and Life Safety division is offering the Fire Explorers program, a series of classroom sessions and hands-on activities designed to give youth a feel for the job.

“I want to spark an interest in the youth of this community,” Fire Chief Greg Klaiber told the 15 youth who attended the open house on Sept. 25. He said he attended the University of Illinois after graduating from Evanston Township High School. “It’s a career that has served me well. My goal is for every one of you to become interested in Evanston Fire and Life Safety services. The future is yours.”

Evanston’s program, typical of Fire Explorers but tailored to Evanston, was more than a year in the making, said Division Chief Thomas Janetske who will coordinate the program. The program is a collaboration with the Boy Scouts of America. Chief Janetske and Division Chief Geoff Block worked with Kofi Anaman of BSA to establish the program in Evanston.

This ongoing, non-discriminatory program will begin next month, said Chief Klaiber. “There is no closing date, he said. “This is the initial registration period, but if students are interested in the program two or three months down the line, we’ll pick them up. There’ll be a learning curve, but everyone will be learning new things each session.”

Fire Explorers must climb the ladder rung by rung. But as long as they work hard and contribute to the program, the members of the Evanston Fire and Life Safety teams will be there to help them to the top. The program is open to all Evanston youth in the 14-20 age group. Anyone who was not able to attend the open house but has an interest in Fire and Life Safety Services may contact DivisionChief Thomas Janetske at tjanetske@cityofevanston.org.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...