Fight the Flames


While most seniors are unsure of their future career paths, senior Colt Sanders has been planning his for years.

Sanders first signed up for the Los Angeles County Fire Department Explorer Program the summer after his sophomore year when a friend informed him about the opportunity. The Explorer Program is created for youth who are interested in learning about the fire service.

“It’s kind of like a pre firefighter program,” Sanders said. “You get to go to the station [and] learn about all the different things you have to do, how fires work, all about the engine, how to set up ladders and different things.”

After Sanders went through the long process of the Explorer Program, he went through the second level of the program, the academy, where he learned in more depth about fire fighting. For part of the training, Sanders had to shave his head.

“[In the academy] you learn a lot more, you get hands on training with fire, and you get to learn in even [more] depth,” Sanders said.

With the Los Angeles Explorers, Sanders was able to get hands on experience that will prepare him for a future as a firefighter, including 24 hour ride alongs.

Sanders was able to assist the fire fighters during all of the recent fires that plagued Thousand Oaks.

“I got to help out during all the big fires that were going on. That was cool. [I gained] a lot of experience,” Sanders said. “[I did] mostly medical calls for people that got burned. That was the biggest thing.”

Because of the expansive and dangerous conditions of the recent fires, Sanders and the explorers were not permitted to fight the fire.

“We weren’t allowed to fight the fire because it was so crazy, but in other circumstances we would get to,” Sanders said. “I helped out around the station, [with] all the firefighters coming in, making sure that they’re fully stocked with everything that they needed.”

Now that Sanders has graduated from the academy, he helps out with the other students in the program.

“I’ll try to go at least once or twice a week. So now I’m training people, which is what people did with me before I was certified. So that’s fun,” Sanders said.

Sanders said that his favorite parts about the program are the opportunities to help others and fight the fires. Sanders also finds many parts of the program challenging.

“There’s definitely a physical edge to it, you have to be in shape and you have to maintain staying in shape because you’re going to be working a lot,” Sanders said.

To Sanders, the hardest part about being a firefighter are the mental challenges.

“On certain calls, there’s things that you are going to see, and you’re going to experience terrible things that no one else does,” Sanders said.

When Sanders first signed up for the program, he did not plan on finding a career. Now, he looks forward to being a full time firefighter after graduation.

“I didn’t take it that seriously at first. And then I got into it and I loved it. I kind of decided that this is what I want to do,” Sanders said. “For this summer I’ve applied for jobs with the forest service and all these different departments. So hopefully I can get at least one job.”