Hinsdale Fire Explorers attend a muster in Holden, Mass. (submitted photo)
Hinsdale Fire Explorers attend a muster in Holden, Mass. (submitted photo)
Tuesday December 11, 2012

HINSDALE, N.H. -- The firefighting profession is one of brotherhood. And in order for that tree to grow, the seed must be planted early on.

The Hinsdale Fire Department started a Fire Explorers Program about eight weeks ago to teach fire service to boys and girls 14 years and older. Explorer Post 788 meets at 6:30 p.m. twice a month all year long. Youngsters learn the tricks of the trade to help determine if they want to make a career out of firefighting.

Hinsdale firefighter Steve Gassett is Post 788's head advisor and has worked for his town's fire department for 11 years. He said it is an on-call department, which means the firefighters are paid when they have to respond to a blaze.

"The importance of these programs, especially in small towns like Hinsdale, is to get kids interested in fire service," he said in a telephone interview. "We enjoy teaching the kids."

The Hinsdale program, like most others, is in need and is asking for donations of money or equipment such as fire helmets and fire boots. Gassett said someone from Peterborough Fire & Rescue called him Thursday night and was willing to donate fire pants and fire coats. Gassett said any donation will be helpful.

Hinsdale High School junior Hunter Brooks, 16, got involved with the program on the first day and has loved the experience.

"I thought it would be a good way to learn to help people, learn some good skills and meet new people," he said.

He has enjoyed the course so much he is considering becoming a professional firefighter when he is old enough and said he plans to take a course in Brattleboro to get his certification. He is also interested in joining the military, like many members of his family have.

The Hinsdale program has had a profound impact on him and he is in it for the long haul.

"I'm going to stick with it even if I become a firefighter, helping educate younger people," he said.

Gassett said the $16-a-year fee goes straight to The Boy Scouts of America, which he said covers the program's insurance.

He said orientation was held on Wednesday, Oct. 30, and the next session is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 12. He said instructions will include how to properly and safely hoist a ladder.

Gassett said previous session have included information on different types of engines and hoses and instructions on fire gear and personal protection. He mentioned they also demonstrated fire prevention to the students of Hinsdale Elementary School.

Hinsdale Fire Chief Jay Matuszewski said the program should greatly benefit the town.

"It's very important. They're the next generation of people who will be doing stuff for the fire department," he said. "If we start them early and get them trained, that's more valuable to the people and to the community later down the road."

Gassett said the program has six leaders and a five-member advisory committee which includes Gassett's wife, Kimberly.

He said 17 is the age requirement to attend The New Hampshire Fire Academy but 18-year-olds still train with the Fire Explorers Program.

Gassett said the program hopes to hold weekend training sessions during the summer.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.