FORT MYERS, FLA — After 4 years, the Fort Myers Fire Department is relaunching its cadet post 1901 program. The explorer program is a year-round for youth 14 to 19 years old with at least a 2.0 GPA. It’s designed to teach local youth firefighting skills while instilling principles of integrity, discipline, and pride.
Growing up as the son of a firefighter, Fort Myers Fire Captain Paul Dearmond joined the cadet program at the start to see if that was the path he wanted to take as well.
“Yea, it was one of those things that feel surreal, that it doesn’t feel just yesterday to me,” said Captain Dearmond.
Captain Dearmond adds, “It definitely was something very eye-opening. And definitely taught me that the fire service is a lot different than I thought looking from the outside. It’s not all about the tv shows, but it’s about hard work and a lot of dedication that goes into that.”
Captain Dearmond was one of the original fire cadets in 2004. He and the other 4 cadets in his class now have firefighting jobs here in Lee County. He describes those fellow cadets as some of his best friends to this day.
“There are some of the people that I got hired with, that were in the explorers, that I have known for 20 plus years, I can call them my best friends. So, I would say the benefits are the relationships that you bond through the years.”
That bond or fire family is something that Engineer Tim Jones, current lead advisor and former cadet, says is important for youth to build that sense of belonging.
“Creating their own family unit, learning how to work as a team, learning how to be leaders, learning how to manage the world,” said Jones.
Jones adds that programs like this can be life-changing for some youth.
“So, coming in and saying wow, this is something that I actually want to do, this something that I am good at, this something that I can do. Get to touch, feel, and ride along with us. Be on those calls, get that experience.
And while not all the cadets might end up pursuing a career in fire, Jones says his cadets will be set up for success in any path, by instilling respect, disciple, integrity, and pride.
“For me, it’s important for me that we instill these things because not everyone wants to be a firefighter, right? So, I want to reach and touch individuals across all aspects of this Earth, so they take and use those skills wherever they might be,” said Jones
Jones says they are still in the recruiting phase and are still accepting those interested in the program. Those interested can contact Jones at 239-841-5224 or email Tjones@cityftmyers.com.