Ocoee Fire/Rescue Department is seeking fire explorers

The department is trying to expand and grow its Fire Explorer Program

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  • | 3:33 p.m. March 28, 2017
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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OCOEE Over the last several months, the Ocoee Fire/Rescue department has seen its Fire Explorer Program shrink down to zero.

The program was created several years ago for students between the ages of 14 and 21 who had an interest in fire or EMS services, but it’s been weeks since the program had one of its regular meetings.

Seeing the recent lull in membership, the program’s lead advisor, Ryan Sandberg, hopes to boost interest in the program in coming weeks and months by reaching out to the local community.

Sandberg, who has worked with the department for six-and-one-half years as a firefighter/paramedic, took over the program two years ago and has kept the program’s structure fairly relaxed to fit the students’ already busy schedules.

“I don’t want to make it such a rigid programs so that when they’re playing football season, they can’t be an explorer,” Sandberg said.

Meetings are held once a month with each one focusing on different skills. Typically, the students see a monthly rotation between learning fire skills and EMS skills. They are taught CPR, first aid, how to use various fire equipment and safety protocols. Once the explorers are CPR certified, they are allowed to go out on ride-alongs with the department’s firefighters.

But their learning doesn’t end there.

Sandberg makes sure his explorers are also taught basic life skills, like résumé writing and interview techniques, and how to be involved in their communities.

“I get them to do the Citizen’s Public Safety Academy because I want them to be involved in the city as well,” he said.

The program is all about learning new skills and has no beginning or end. Students can join at any point during the year and can stay in the program until they reach the age of 21. The explorers also have the ability to earn volunteer hours for their participation in the program. 

But not just anyone can join.

The explorers must have completed eighth grade, have good moral character, maintain a grade-point-average of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale and have no criminal convictions.

For Sandberg, watching the explorers grow and learn is one of the highlights of the program.

“Originally when I went to college, I wanted to be a teacher,” Sandberg said. “So this is my way to do both (firefighting and teaching).”

But his passion is firefighting.

“You get to help people,” Sandberg said. “It’s exciting, and there’s always something different to do. There is no limit to what you can learn and what you can do in this profession. It’s the best job in the world. There’s nothing like it.”

To get involved in the program, contact Sandberg at [email protected] or call 407-905-3140.


Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected]


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