Explorers are different from Cadets as I understand it. Explorers as you know have an age limit and Cadets may or may not. Explorers are High School aged young adults and Cadets are college aged adults.
"My" post isn't run this way but some other local posts are. They chose it to give their cadets more experience. Those posts have a lot more serious cadets (they don't call them explorers as to not be confused as LFL participants).
My department just joined with one of the local Colleges and has (3) FF 1 Cadets. Our Cadets are able to function and go on the same calls that the rest of us go on. The differences are their ages, level of training, liability (the College has assumed all liability, I asked) and the insurance associated with them.
Our Cadets have $1 million insurance coverage provided by the College. You may want to think about seeing how feasible this is since the College already has to have insurance, especially for those Colleges that have Fire Academies.
Most departmens that have this charge the cadets anually/biannually for insurance coverage.
We brought the Cadets in to help them since in Cali there must are a certain amount of hours that must be met before you can get your CSFM FF 1 Cert.
Few departmets run this way, but it's usually for departments with low staffing that really need extra hands on the fire grounds.
This is what I was saying earlier about the differences in training levels. Many Explorers are young adults that come into the Program/Post with no experience and are trained by the Department. In many Departments, once an Explorer hits 18, they are rolled into a Paid/On Call Status (if they have such a Program/Status) or they are rolled into a Reserve Status. A Cadet is an adult that has enrolled into a College Fire Academy, graduated and needs training hours to complete their FF 1 Certs. Our Explorer training is based on the CSFM Volunteer FF Level training. Check the CSFM's website for the differences in training if you want to know the differences. Our Explorers have (3) Levels (Entry, Level 1 and Level 2), when they make Level 2 they will receive their CSFM Volunteer FF Cert which with additional training and experience they can earn their FF 1 Cert.
The cadets go through rigorous training and lots of paperwork before entering any IDLH environment. So far in my area there has not been any cases of any cadets being injured on a fire scene.
Since you 1st posted, I've been researching both Programs and see very different Programs. Cadets are usually associated with the Military (the FS is paramilitary so it makes sense to have Cadets in the FS) and are studying to be an Officer and are held to a standard than regular Recruits. In the FS they are College FF 1 Candidates who need time/exposure to the Job.
Thanks for challenging me and posting something I had to research.