The Lealman Fire Cadet Program is launching its second year giving young people exposure to careers in emergency medical and fire services.

The instructors are seasoned Lealman firefighters. The Cadets, aged 14 to 20 years old, meet every Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. for hands-on experiences with the real-life daily tasks of fire fighters and EMTs.

In addition to exposure to a high-demand career, the program delivers benefits such as physical fitness, leadership experience, and life-saving skills that create a sense of mastery and confidence on the path to young adulthood.

According to Lealman District Chief Ed Robertson, the Cadets love the program, and their retention rate is great. But they can handle 8-12 more participants and want to get the word out among Lealman and other Pinellas County students with curiosity about these professions. 

Asked about some of the specific skills the Cadets learn, Chief Robertson provided examples.  

“The Cadets bunk out in full firefighting gear, for example,” he said. “Getting geared up quickly is an important part of the job, and the ability to do so in 2 minutes takes work. Cadets practice forceable entry with tools, and how to pull hose lines and spray water, which is also challenging. And learning how to precisely reload the hose line on the truck is another skill,” Robertson added.

Cadets also learn about basic anatomy and how to check vital signs like heart and respiratory rates. They get exposure to radio communications and how hard it can be to talk on the radio and communicate clearly in stressful situations.

Physical fitness is an important job requirement– entry into the fire academy depends upon it. Cadets do pushups and develop leg strength and cardio endurance by running in gear and with fire hoses.

Chief Robertson says that while consistent attendance is expected, the Cadet Program works with students to accommodate school, part time jobs, sports, and other activities. “Summer is a great time to start the program and get established while there is a bit more freedom and fewer competing commitments,” he said.

Four out of the five Fire Cadet Program instructors were cadets themselves or involved with other explorer programs as youth. The Fire Cadet Program is Florida-wide, with the state organization of Fire Chiefs providing insurance and other supports. There’s even a statewide competition among programs, featuring activities like hose lines pulling and mock victim triage, etc.

“We’d love to field a team to go to the state finals eventually,” Robertson said.

One of the first class of Lealman Fire Cadets is graduating from high school and entering EMT training, and the Fire Commission may provide support for his schooling. For students entering the field, it’s a great career with good benefits, attractive work schedule, a pension and full health insurance, Robertson says.  

If hands-on training like this sounds appealing to you or a young person you know, contact Fire Chief Ed Robertson for more information. 727-687-0056 or at

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