Fire Explorers program ignites student passion

Sophomore Justin Malik has gotten a head start on his future career through a program with the local fire department.

Courtesy of Justin Malik

Sophomore Justin Malik has gotten a head start on his future career through a program with the local fire department.

Savannah Whitmer, Lead Reporter

Experiencing a fire is something very few people want to do. But for sophomore Justin Malik, firefighting is a way of serving the community.

“I’m 16, and I’ve just been doing it this year,” Justin said. “My brother is a firefighter for Lucas, so I used to go up to the Lucas Fire Station and look around. It looked interesting, I think it’s a good field to be in, helping people. And then I heard about this program in Wylie, so I just went there.”

Malik is a part of a program in Wylie called the Fire Explorers, made up of students that get hands-on experience in fire rescue. They are trained in fire suppression, equipment use, emergency safety, first aid, and CPR.

“Explorers are kiddos from 14 to 20 who come and learn about fire,” Wylie Fire Captain Ray Jackson said. “They pursue the idea of becoming firefighters for the community, and see if they like it.”

Being an Explorer provides a unique opportunity to prepare for a career, much like an internship.

“You get more knowledge and life skills with being a part of a rewarding and enjoyable career,” Lucas firefighter Matthew Malik said. “You can help people on their worst days.”

Justin is able to ride along on emergency calls and assist firefighters on the weekends, with some restrictions.

“I do a lot of the same work that a regular fire-fighter would, the only big difference is that I’m a volunteer, instead of being paid,” Justin said. “I would go to a call, and I can’t really do medical calls, because I’m not certified yet for medical calls, so I would go to like, a house fire, a structure fire, and just usually fill up air bottles for a CBA, and then I would unroll the hose, hook it up to the hydrants, and then sometimes I would get the hose on the fire and put out the fire.”

Although Explorers under 18 are not permitted to go into fires, Justin is already familiar with burning buildings.

“During training, you can’t see anything because of all the smoke, then there’s fire everywhere around you, and that’s kind of scary because you get boxed in,” Malik said. “It’s also super hot inside the suit. It can get up to 500 degrees with all the protection, and with the fire around you. And it’s heavy. Gear weighs 60 to 80 pounds, depending on what gear you have.”

Justin intends to use the skills he is currently learning as an Explorer to become a firefighter in the future.

“I’m doing it now just for the experience,” Justin said.  “It’s what I plan on doing for the rest of my life.”