Firefighters at Fire Station 12 don’t just serve the community by responding to emergencies, they also lend a hand in the social development of young adults.
The station is one of approximately 10 posts throughout the city that offers adolescents between the ages of 14 and 20 the opportunity to explore a career in firefighting through its cadet program.
“Once they come here and become a cadet, they’ll learn what we do and how we do it as a firefighter for the city of Los Angeles,” firefighter and Assistant Cadet Advisor Christian Riley said.
“It’s a volunteer based program and also a mentorship program to each of the cadets to hopefully become firefighters. If they don’t seek the profession that we hold, it’s a great program that helps them transition and grow as an adult,” he added.
Post 12’s cadet program—formally known as the explorer program—has been established since 2006 and currently has 48 cadets serving Highland Park.
According to Fire Capt. Anthony Navarro, cadets take fire science classes and receive training and assistance in becoming emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
“As a cadet we learn about the fire department from assisting on medical runs, fighting fires and they teach us a lot about responsibility, teamwork, camaraderie, integrity and honesty. That’s instilled in us at a very young age,” said cadet Anthony Kong.
Kong said the fire department sent him to paramedic training and the Franklin High School graduate obtained EMT certification from UCLA’s Center for Prehospital Care.
“The cadets that we have now are very highly motivated and successful. At this time we have 10 cadets that area certified as paramedics. We have over 22 cadets that are certified as emergency medical technicians, they are given the guidelines on what they have to do to become firefighters and they’re following it to a T,” Navarro said.
Fire Station 12 actively recruits at local high schools and junior high schools. The post recently brought in five recruits from Manual Arts Senior High School located in South Los Angeles.
“We’re bringing that diversity to our cadet post. We want to make sure that they represent the city that we serve and they get that experience here at that fire station,” Navarro said.
The whole intent of the cadet program, according to Navarro, is to give positive role models to cadets and kids in community, while providing an outlet to become a productive part of society.
Cadet Antonio Aguilar said, “I’ve been an explorer since the age of 14. Because of this program I’ve grown a tremendous amount and I can honestly say that since then I’ve matured as a person and have a better understanding of what exactly the fire department is and learned morals and values.”