Tea Volunteer Fire Department finds success with Cadet program
The Tea Volunteer Fire Department has implemented a successful Cadet program in recent years, aimed at recruiting and training young individuals between the ages of 14 and 18. The program allows interested individuals to participate as long as they meet certain requirements, such as maintaining a certain grade average in school.
“A few years ago Rick Baker, myself and a couple of other firefighters saw the need to develop a program with the recruiting numbers down,” said Tea Fire Department Chief, Steve Oberle.
Baker, who served on the Fire Department in Custer, said they had a Cadet program which really helped at boosting the department’s future numbers.
According to Oberle, the Cadet program has been a great asset to the department. The cadets assist senior firefighters by performing tasks such as handing out water bottles, refilling air tanks, and running for tools, which saves steps for the senior firefighters.
The cadets also get the opportunity to gain experience and information by participating in controlled burns and running fire hoses, but are not allowed to participate in medical calls or injury accidents as a safety measure. The hope is that the knowledge and experience gained while being a Cadet will encourage them to stay with the Department as they get older.
The Cadet program has had a strong impact on the community, with many Cadets going on to pursue careers in the firefighting field or related jobs, such as flight teams in Rapid City. The program, which has been running for over eight years, currently has 9-10 youth involved.
The program is overseen by members of the Tea Fire Department who act as advisors for the Cadets. The Cadets have their own business meeting and training nights set up and they also attend Tea Fire Department training meetings and maintenance nights to help work on trucks. The Cadets elect their own chief and assistant chief, and the fire department maintains funds for the program.
Recently named as fire chief was Tea’s Hunter Wilson. Wilson has been with the program for one year and three months. Assistant chief is Kendra Oberle. She also has been with the program for one year and three months.
According to Chief Oberle, the program has been a great success and has helped many young individuals find a path in life they may not have found otherwise. He also mentioned that the Cadets are given preference over other applicants when applying for jobs in the department due to their training and experience.