Fire Explorer Muster Promotes Teamwork at CTEX

Feb. 28, 2024
Over 200 California Fire Explorers learned about camaraderie and teamwork as they competed in the fire muster.

They arrived in Riverside, CA, early Sunday morning, energetic and excited and returned home to their fire stations exhausted but feeling a sense of accomplishment. 

This rang true for dozens of the nearly 200 fire explorers that attended the first annual California State Firefighters’ Association (CSFA) Fire Explorer Muster that kicked off the association's CTEX Conference at the Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center in Riverside.

Fire explorers from 21 posts up and down the state participated in competitions. More importantly, they learned about camaraderie; and the lessons of teamwork were reinforced. 

CSFA President Eddie Sell told students that he himself started his career in the fire service as a teenage fire explorer and reminded them that they, too, can use exploring programs as the foundation to climb through the career ladder in the fire service. 

The explorers, wearing a mix of brand new or well-worn PPE, competed in multiple events, but started the day off with an organized, firefighter-specific fitness routine and stretching exercise provided by SAC FIT.

Anthony Hildebrand, an assistant chief with the Downing, CA, Fire Department, joined other parents on the sidelines to cheer on their children. His son, Ben, is with Murrietta Valley Fire Technical School.

“I see him at home and, I know what he is like, and it's great to see him with a group of young men and women who are working towards these events, Hildebrand said. "It's really neat to see the future of the fire service out here. These kids who could be playing video games, who could be messing around at home are out here learning something, doing something positive and cheering each other on.”

The chief said he did not push his son to be a firefighter but let him choose this path on his own.

“He has really gravitated towards the fire service. I think my job and his growing up in the firehouse had something to do with it. But letting him make his own decisions and really kind of carve his own path have been positive for him. And he's found that he really enjoys it.”

The events

The first event, which was a timed challenge, involved the explorers suiting up in full PPE, including a hood, gloves and helmet, and then rolling a length of 2½-inch hose before running back and returning the hose across a line where the next member of the team would begin the process over again. As each explorer ran the course, parents, other explorers and advisors cheered them on.  

The next team-focused event had them running 150 feet of 2½-inch hose across the training pad, spinning around and having them pull the remaining hoseline across the line, hand-over-hand until all the hose crossed the line where another team member then returned it back to the other side and pulled the hose back. 

The constant screams and yells for support echoed amongst the training buildings at the sprawling facility.

The explorers came from a variety of agencies, including a high school program from Murrieta Valley High School, the U.S. Forest Service, fire districts, and county-based fire departments. Each team had their respective area where they stored their equipment. Advisors gave pep talks. Their carefully folded uniforms or PPE were meticulously storedsomething that’s ingrained in them.


Tommy Ferran, an explorer with Santa Clarita, CA, Post 99, based at the Little Tujunga Hotshots base, has been a member of the post for just over seven months. 

The 19-year-old was a high school athlete who did not have the means to attend college, so he turned to the explorers to look forcareer.

“I figured firefighting was very team oriented and that just kind of drew me towards it,” Ferran said.

This was his first muster and loved the experience.

“It’s been great to have the camaraderie and meet guys from other posts” Ferran said. “It's amazing. It's essentially bringing other people that you don't know into a team and it's forming a bond with each other. So, it's basically building a sense of family, a sense of bond, and just making a team.”

After lunch, the next event included teams who would couple three lengths of hose and added a nozzle. Once the hoseline was coupled and charged, the explorer on the nozzle would aim the nozzle and hit a target. The team would rush back, breaking the coupling and return to the finish line to stop the clock.

The event culminated with the century’s old tradition of a bucket brigade. The teams had to fill metal pails from a trough, pass them along and dump them into empty troughs. The event focused on communication and teamwork, So, the group moved the buckets in quick order.

Ivy Sowers, 17, has been an explorer with the Orange County Fire Authority program for two years after her best friend’s home was damaged by fire.  

“I got really interested in that because I want to protect people from having to deal with what she dealt with,” Sowers said. “Everyone's very supportive. It's a great opportunity. You get a lot of connections. You meet a lot of really good people, and you get a lot of really good information on things. And it's a really good start to any career that you want in the fire service.”

Dave Santos, a captain with Colton, CA, Fire Department, said of the experience: “When I was growing up, I was an explorer for my own agency and I would see the advisors out there on weekends, not paid, just doing it for the love of it. And it's not until you get later in your career, and you start to realize and you see these young kids who are in your community, and they just want that mentorship, that guidance."

Santos was among a group of CSFA members who organized the muster, along with post advisors and volunteers.

“I've been an advisor for a while. So even when I was early in my career, I wanted to give back,” Santos said. “Getting back with CSFA allowed me to make it even better."

"The last team gets the most cheers,” Santos said adding that everyone who is watching and participating cheers on the last group. “That's the kind of that mentality you want, you put in them. It's teamwork, it's team effort. And we will explain to them later; if you didn't get the win, it doesn't mean you lost.”

Courtney Hudson, 19, joined the Orange County Fire Authority two years ago after switching her career pursuit from nursing to the fire service. 

“Nurses do a lot of hard work, but I want to be outdoors and like kind of see what a men's career is like. So, I wanted to give it a try and see if I would like it or not and I ended up really liking it,” Hudson said.

"The biggest challenge is definitely being weaker than all the men because the boys and the men can just manhandle a lot of things but for the girls you have to use more technique." 

“A lot of people have helped me and I started working out after I joined this program because I realized that it's a lot physically,” Hudson said. “My post advisor actually just gave me some good information on working out and how to eat right."

She said it was a physically demanding event, but called it fun.

"If you prepare right then you could definitely succeed.”

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