By Anne Eickstadt

ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTO Belvidere Daily Republican
All the Explorers at their spaghetti dinner fundraiser gather and show off their helmets and air cylinders.


“We expect 300 to 350 people to come to this spaghetti dinner,” said Captain Tim Davis, firefighter and training officer. “We will see representatives from at least seven or eight fire departments here, coming out to support us. It’s a big family atmosphere. We all support the kids, they are our future.

“All proceeds from this event will go straight to the Explorer program. The fire department is separate from the Explorer program and this is their only fundraiser to make money to purchase equipment. We are in dire need of donations because of the amount of kids we have. It’s hard to get all the equipment they need.

“We started the Explorer program to give teenage kids the opportunity to learn about the Fire/EMS services. They train right alongside the firefighters on everything. The Explorers range in age from 14 years old to 21 years.

“This is a feeder program for the fire department. We have had four Explorers go on to join District 2 fire’s volunteer force. They still call me ‘Chief’ but they have become my peers. Some aging out of the program are going into District 3 as well. Older kids who age out of the program often become instructors and the Explorers really relate to them.

“We have firemen instructors from Districts 2 and 3. Our instructors work full time jobs as well as work as firefighters. They still give up more time to train the Explorers. We primarily train here at District 3. We try to instill better standards and provide guidance. We teach them dedication. We teach them to look people in the eye and how to give a good handshake. When needed, we provide a sympathetic ear, advice, or tutoring. We love doing it and watching the kids do well.

“These kids tend to be leaders at school, in sports or in class. We hold them to a higher standard and hold them accountable for their actions. They have to keep their grades up and stay out of trouble. They do road cleanup and community service and actually help at every one of our events for District 3 and District 2. All the kids worked at the firefighters’ donut stand at the Boone County Fair.

“These kids recently purchased their own equipment. The helmets cost $400 and the air cylinders are $800 apiece. The department in Elizabeth and the District 2 firefighters donated packs to carry the cylinders. District 3 matched the money the Explorers brought in to purchase equipment. This year we are hoping to purchase more helmets and personal gear.

“We have approximately 30 kids in the program and most of these kids I would trust to go into a fire with me. They are all very active at events. We always have at least

For complete article, pick up the March 4 Belvidere Daily Republican.