A pinning ceremony for eight Explorer Firefighters at Fire Station No. 1 in downtown Hollister on Saturday, June 17, singled the end of extensive training.
After the pins were placed and praises given, all the Explorers — Marcos Gil, Blake Woeste, Mia Ventimiglia, Angel Suarez, Owen Miller, Elija Moica, Nik Thomas and Andrew Liddle — stood up to the challenge when a fire engine turned the corner with sirens blazing.
They previously had put on their protective clothing, quickly donned masks, and then went to work. They carried the hose and other apparatuses to the desired location.
Following the exercise and reenactment watched out on the street by parents, friends and Hollister firefighters, the Explorers accepted the challenge and received a round-the-firehouse approval.
According to Debra Ventimiglia, whose daughter, Mia, is in the program, “some of these young people were there on the first day. They’ve run the first aid stations at the fair and Hollister Air Show and other community-support activities.”
Fire Chief Bob Martin Del Campo spoke about the dedication the young folks had, in order to demonstrate what was needed to get where they are today in the program that began three years ago.
Many of the Explorers plan to pursue firefighting as a profession.
Martin Del Campo stated that firefighters do not pursue the career for the money, rather they do it as a sense of duty and community service. “They all have Type A personalities,” he stated.
The chief said one of the challenges is to learn firefighting terminology, and one Explorer agreed that the dialogue must be learned.
Fire Captain Wayne Thomas, who is a mentor who heads the Explorer program, praised the young people after the pinning ceremony.
“They do everything we do, except we train for 300 hours and they train for 150 hours," he said.
The Explorers are certified in first aid and CPR.
“Everything firefighters do is risk management," Thomas said, “and the Explorers learn to respond to a structure fire, extinguishing it, salvage, and conduct the investigation. We’re encouraging females to join now. All Explorers, to be considered, must have at least a 2.0 grade point average. We want to recruit up to 15 Explorers by July."
Thomas added, “It’s something great for kids to do and to help them stay out of trouble. This redirects behavior, to something positive. We speak with the parents before the training begins to learn about any issues we should know about,” said Thomas.
Nik Thomas said they, as trained Explorers, will help teach the upcoming Explorers.
Mia Ventimiglia and Gabriella Martin Del Campo were the two females on the crew. Gabriella was unable to attend the pinning ceremony, as she was attending San Jose State University at the time.
Mia, a high school graduate who will attend Monterey Peninsula College in teh fall, gave as her reason for wanting to be a firefighter for “the adrenline rush, and I like not knowing what to expect, and I also like the medical aspect of the job.”
Ventimiglia added, “A few years ago, my mom told me about an Explorers program for teens about being a firefighter. I went to the informational meeting our of curiosity, not expecting this to be my path. That first day, the firefighters gave us a tour of the station and engines. I’ve spent the past four years learning, training, volunteering for community events, growing in a desire to work in emergency services."
Thomas, a high school senior, is being trained to follow in the footsteps of his dad and his grandfather in firefighting. “Every day is different. That is what I like,” he said.
Liddle said he likes the medical part of the work, especially saving lives, and he wants to become a firefighter.
“I don’t want a desk job,” he noted.