It's been nearly a year since the Sunnyside Fire Department Volunteer Cadet program was formed and already the group is looking to expand.
Originally, six high school students were selected to participate in the program. Of those six, one has graduated and another has moved on, choosing a different path than the fire service program. Program advisor Josh Roe had two positions to fill, which he did this week, he told members of the Sunnyside Kiwanis Club Thursday morning.
Roe, a firefighter/paramedic for the Sunnyside Fire Department, said he anticipates expanding the program to eight cadets in December.
Since the cadet program started, Roe said the students have really become part of the department. Career firefighters help the cadets in their training and explain the different aspects of the fire service to them.
The cadets have uniforms similar to the firefighters, so they feel part of the program. More importantly, they are learning life-saving skills that they can use when needed, said Roe.
One of the first things the cadets did when the program started was take CPR training and advanced first aid classes, which are a requirement of every firefighter in the state, said Roe.
The cadets, who have been eased into the department, are signing up for shift assignments throughout the month and have gone on numerous aid calls and to the scenes of car accidents, at which they've been able to assist the firefighters and paramedics with equipment. They haven't been at the fire station when a fire call has gone out, but next week Roe expects the cadets to receive pagers that will let them know when they need to head to the fire department to help with a fire call.
Luis Del Angel is one of the newest cadets in the program. Del Angel said he became interested in the program when he heard applications were available at school.
"I really want to experience what it's like to be a firefighter," said Del Angel, who added that if he chooses the fire service as a career his cadet training will give him some experience, although he won't be put in dangerous situations at fire scenes.
Cadet President Michelle Gonzalez said that the program has been going well for her.
"For me, going out on calls is such a rush. You never know what to expect," she said.
Gonzalez, who originally wanted to be a flight nurse, is now looking at being a physician's assistant and helping people with psychological issues. She hopes to stay in the Valley following graduation, to work and be a Yakima County volunteer Firefighter, since the volunteer age is lower than the city's requirement.
"I want to stay around here because I am really enjoying the program," said Gonzalez.
Roe said cadets can stay in the program until they are old enough to become a city volunteer.
He added that he understand the cadets are teens and he encourages them to be a kid because this is their only chance to be in high school.
"I also encourage them to go to college," he said, adding that fire departments across the nation are looking more and more for firefighters with college degrees.
"That's were you get your paramedic license, as well," he added.