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California Fire Explorer Academy Trains Aspiring Firefighters in Tracy

TRACY -- Hundreds of young men and women have traveled from all across California and Nevada to spend their spring breaks in Tracy and learn what it takes to become a firefighter.

"They are getting the full gamut of training of what it takes and what they'll be exposed to if they truly want to be a firefighter," said Joel Fell, a Tracy Fire Department engineer.

The 44th annual California Fire Explorer Academy gives aspiring firefighters a chance to learn from trained professionals. On Tuesday at the West Valley Mall explorers practiced prying open cars to get victims out.

"It's important to learn to give medical aid to someone that's been in a car accident," said Tracy Fire explorer John Legasa.

It's just one of the exercises in the week-long training camp, during which explorers travel to several locations in Northern California and learn different aspects of the job.

"We use those advisors, who are full-time firefighters, to help be a lead on each of the scenarios," Fell said.

Many of the young men and women are working toward a career in the fire service.

"All the values and experiences I've learned will take... will carry me through the rest of my career," Legasa told FOX40.

Many go on to become professionals but participants say everyone can take something away from the program, even if firefighting isn't a long-term goal.

"You learn integrity and accountability and also just to be a very good person," Legasa said.

"We don't care if they want to be firefighters. We would love for them to be firefighters," Fell said. "That's what we're training them specifically to do. But we're also teaching them to be contributing members of society and go get whatever it is in life they want."

More explorers will be doing the same exercise at the West Valley Mall in Stockton all day Wednesday and the public is invited to come watch. The Tracy Fire Department is also accepting applications to become an explorer.