Firing up the next generation


A group of firefighters gear up in their yellow "suits" and get ready to enter a small white house as smoke drifts out. A white Carlton Fire and Ambulance truck sits in the driveway, siren blaring.

Among the firefighters are Carlton High School students Tiara Larson, a senior, and Spencer Nynas, a junior. They are two of the five high school students participating in the Carlton Firefighters Cadet program, which partners with the high school. The group trained for a search and rescue that night.

The cadet program began in 2007 and accepts students age 15-17. Once a student turns 18, he or she is no longer considered a cadet and then becomes a member of the department. Cadets are required to maintain grades and have permission from their parents to participate.

They aren't allowed to fight fires, but they can help with hoses and tanker trucks at a fire scene after attending training. They also clean trucks and prepare the rigs to return to service after fires.

Cadets can leave school for a call if they maintain their grades and have permission from both parents and the teacher.

According to the program guidelines, the cadets will receive classroom training in core areas of interest: CPR, communications, general fire and rescue, as well as fire safety and prevention.

The program is funded through the city. The department pays for the training and provides fire gear.

"We could not do this without the support of the school and the City Council," Carlton Fire Chief Derek Wolf said. "We appreciate it."

The Carlton Fire Department has been partnering with the school for many years. Wolf volunteered while he was in high school and stayed with the department. He moved into the chief position just over a year ago.

The cadets are encouraged to attend the department's meetings and events, including training classes. They are required to complete six months of service, attend two medical trainings a year and 10 fire trainings.

The department is allowed to accept five cadets each year. The school informs students about the availability of the program.

"Having the cadets around is a moral booster for us," Wolf said. "The students are motivated and excited to be here."

Wolf said some students need to coordinate their schedule around sports and activities and may not participate as often as others.

Nynas plans to enroll in an EMT course in the spring.

"It's been educational," Nynas said enthusiastically. "It's a lot more thrilling when your about to go into a situation." He added that the actual experience has been better than what he anticipated.

Nynas is following in his father's steps. His father was a member of the department years ago and fought wildfires out west.

Larson, who aged out of the program in December, is now considered a member, although she is still in high school.

She wasn't sure what she wanted to do after graduation, so she joined the cadet program.

"I thought it would be a good experience and I would find out more about the medical field," Larson said.

The Carlton Fire and Ambulance was established in 1881 and has 25 volunteer firefighters and 12 EMTs who are paid and on call. Two people are on staff 24/7. In 2017, there were 800 calls for fire and ambulance — roughly two calls per day.

For more information about the cadet program, visit