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Some Ventura County teens are finding out firsthand how to have a career in the Fire Department

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Caroline Feraday

Most of us see what happens at the front line, when firefighters are in action — but what about behind the scenes?

At the dispatch center at the Ventura County Fire Department, emergency calls are answered and crews deployed.

It’s one of the behind-the-scenes roles being demonstrated to a group of 13 to 16-year-olds as part of their free Junior Firefighter Academy.

The week-long sessions are an opportunity for the teens to learn what it takes to be a fire fighter, and be introduced to other fire safety careers, like paramedic, fire inspector, fire prevention officer and dispatcher.

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Caroline Feraday
Teens visit the dispatch center

"The fire department is a very large organization," explains David Schacherer, who works for VCFD as an engineer, and is one of the Ventura County Fire Department firefighters who teach the academy program.

"There are so many facets to it that we do our best on the program to let them know it's more than just a fire fighter on a fire engine," said Schacherer.

He says he’s glad to see the return of the 5-day sessions, after a two-year-long break because of COVID-19.

"When it was shut down in the pandemic, it was a low point in our community education program. Now that we are back, we are trying to hit it in full effect", Schacherer told KCLU.

It’s hands-on interactive training as students learn about personal protective gear, hands-only CPR, basic first aid — and conclude with a graduation ceremony.

It’s hoped the program will inspire some of those attending to consider a career with the fire department.

"It's really to bridge the gap between high school age students and a possible career path," explains Schacherer.

He says that the students all work hard and dispel any misconceptions about "lazy" young people.

For 13-year-old Brandon Lane, it’s an opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps.

"My dad is a firefighter so I'm interested in it. He's already a captain so I want to do it too," said Lane.

"I might want to be a dispatcher or a firefighter and after this program it seems even more interesting," said 13-year-old Sophie Siegert.

And in the future – it might just be Siegert who grows up to answer that life-saving call in the dispatch center, inspired by the Junior Firefighter Academy.

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award this year, and also won two further first place awards, for Lifestyle Feature and Personality Profile/Interview. Last year, Caroline won first place for Use Of Sound. She also won two Golden Mike Awards this year, for Best News Reporting and Best Entertainment Reporting, as well as a National Arts & Entertainment Award from LA Press Club for One-on-One interview. Caroline started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and she was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007. She moved to Los Angeles in 2013 and is both an American and British citizen. Caroline lives in Agoura Hills with her daughter - her proudest production.