SOUTH OGDEN -- Jessie Karren and her team crouched behind the metal door, waiting for the signal to enter.
A fire on the other side of the door had gotten out of control and the firefighters had to decide whether it was safe to enter. Was the door hot? Was smoke coming out the bottom? Was gas involved? Were people inside? Opening the door could affect all of these situations.
Jessie and her team weren't at a real fire. Instead, the teenagers were at a Fire Explorers training session taught by South Ogden firefighters.
The program is for young adults ages 16 to 21 interested a career with the fire department. A joint venture with The Boy Scouts of America and Learning for Life, Fire Explorers teaches about the program from the ground up, said South Ogden Fire Chief Tracy Bolt.
"Learning for Life is a program that explores all fields, but the most popular are the fire and police fields," Bolt said. "We have a lot of toys to play with and there's an element of glamor that goes along with the job. I think that appeals to a lot of young kids."
Bolt said pretty much everything that's taught at the fire academy is taught at Fire Explorers.
"We get them very involved. We teach both in the classroom and give them hands on experience so when they're finished they're ready to be certified," Bolt said. "It's a win-win situation because not only are the kids involved in a worthy cause, but we are building ourselves a hiring pool here."
Right now there are 12 young adults enrolled in the on-going program. They are taught everything from emergency medical services to fire behavior, search and rescue, wild fires and how to handle equipment."
"They are getting a big taste of everything so they can decide whether or not they want spend the rest of their lives doing this," said Fire Capt. Jim Osgood. "While it's all very exciting, fighting fires is serious business. There's a lot more to it than just pointing a hose to the flame."
Jessie discovered the program while taking an EMT class in high school.
"I thought it was fun at first but now that I've gotten really involved I've decided this is what I want to do as a career," she said. "It's a lot of very hard work but at the end of the day you can go home knowing you've helped someone."
Nate Alas said he's wanted to be a firefighter since he was a child.
"I think that's every little boy's dream, to be a firefighter when they grow up," he said. "I've wanted this really bad. I want to help people and make a difference. I don't want to sit behind a desk all day."
Fire Capt. Bill Stoddard said there are small fees to enroll, so the kids have held numerous fundraisers to help supply items.
"They held a car wash at Lowe's so they could purchase helmets," he said. "They've really been dedicated and have worked very hard at this."
Boy Scouts of America staff member Tom Hunsaker visited the class recently and said the program is an excellent way for kids to decide their future without investing a lot of money.
"Career exploring is an excellent way for these kids to get a taste of something they might be interested in pursuing as a full time career," he said. "The Explorers program offers opportunities in virtually every field imaginable, but there seems to be a real strong spirit for the fire and police fields."
Hunsaker said South Ogden is only the second fire department in the state to have the program.
"They have really set the pace for the Wasatch Front," he said. "They have put their heart and soul into it and have done everything right. Not only are they benefiting but the kids are becoming even better citizens."
Bolt said the city will sponsor the kids once they're ready to take the state test.
"We're also looking at ways to help them with scholarships and financing their certifications," Bolt said. "This is a huge benefit to the community and the kids love it. They have learned quickly and really seem to have a hunger to learn more."
Bolt said when an opening comes up, the fire department will advertise at the local high schools.