The Hailey Fire Department has expanded trainings and educational programs since new Fire Chief Craig Aberbach took over the department on Nov. 1.
“We’re going in a lot of different directions and it’s getting a lot of guys motivated,” said Aberbach, who came to Hailey from Cape Coral, Fla.
“We have three new volunteers and no one has left,” he said.
Aberbach launched the Fire Explorer Program in partnership with the Blaine County School District. The program engages Wood River High School students in firefighter training, and perhaps a career.
High School juniors learn about equipment and all firefighting tasks, but are not exposed to dangerous situations, Aberbach said.
The following year, as seniors, they mentor juniors as they move up in the ranks.
“They also learn about responsibility, leadership and commitment, things they can pass on to any other profession,” Aberbach said.
Aberbach said he will pursue grants to expand and continue the program.
“With less vocational programs in school systems nationwide, this is a good way to guarantee a workforce for the future,” he said. “We already have one high school senior, Gus Conrad, who is a fully-fledged volunteer firefighter with us.”
Fire Explorer Zach Swanson may continue a family tradition. His father is Rob Swanson, a volunteer firefighter with the department.
Aberbach worked in middle schools in Florida as a full-time substitute teacher. At the college level, he worked to establish partnerships among schools, fire departments and emergency medical services departments.
Since joining the Hailey Fire Department, Aberbach has been working with Eastern Kentucky University to establish an internship program at the department.
“The university is involved with a lot of technical programs associated with firefighting,” he said. “We could be getting one of their degree-seeking students, who would work 80-100 hours in Hailey. It would be a great benefit to the community at little or no cost.”
Aberbach said the Hailey Fire Department has doubled trainings with neighboring Wood River Fire & Rescue, from twice each year to four times each year.
“Our members are always welcome at WRFR’s trainings, and they are always welcome at ours,” he said.