Having grown up in Niland, Raylene Tapiceria recalled watching firefighters do physical agility training at the fire station just across from her parents’ home and it piqued her interest as to whether she might have what it takes to do that job.
That dream did come true for her and she has been a Holtville firefighter for about a year. Previously a kitchen aid and sales representative, she now strives to show young people they can have a better career.
"I always wanted to give back to the community and help others," she said.
However, many students interested in becoming a firefighter or emergency medical technician don't know how to get started. That led Holtville Fire Chief Alex Silva to opening up the fire station to have Tapiceria guide them, she explained.
The catalyst is the Holtville Fire Explorers, which ended several years of dormancy with an inaugural July 27 meeting at the fire station at 549 Fern Ave.
"It provides training for students ages 14-20 interested in sharpening skills and prepares them to get to their goals," said Tapiceria.
The Explorers’ aim is to focus on fire science classes and foster discipline, self esteem and community involvement. Holtville High School students can earn community hours required for graduation.
Six candidates and their parents attended the meeting, including one each from El Centro and Calexico. All were required to explain why they were interested in an emergency-services career and submit applications, and those under 18 had waivers signed by parents so they can go out on fire department calls.
"Our job is to get students prepared for that and especially the ones who want to get into the (Imperial Valley College) fire academy,” Tapiceria explained.
Academy requirements include being at least 18, a high school diploma, and passing written and physical agility tests. Financial aid is available.
The new Explorer troop is considering fundraisers to get T-shirts and baseball caps with the Explorer name, and the group expects to be active in community events, including Holtville farmers markets.
Members must furnish their own boots, navy blue T-shirt and trousers. Other gear, including medical jackets, goggles and respirators, will be provided.
"The good thing is we have an AMR (American Medical Response) ambulance to help with training when their paramedics are not on a call," said Tapiceria.
Holtville Fire is in he process of formally establishing the post with the Scouts of America.
The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 17 in the firehouse at 10 a.m. It will cover hands-on firefighting tasks and EMS rescue procedures. New recruits are invited.
"I feel it’s great and I’m so excited--all of us at the fire department are--to see the Explorers get going again," said Tapiceria. "Chief Silva proposed the idea and that's exactly what we're going to do."