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All in the family posted on 05/07/2018

When Kevin Franks first became a volunteer firefighter with the Hoodland Fire District (HFD), his son Jonathan kept a keen eye on his father. Kevin would get a call on his pager and head out, while Jonathan ran to the iPad to follow along with the call on an app.  

The elder Franks, who was inspired to become a firefighter after seeing how helpful the firefighters were when responding to calls regarding his ailing father, has won the HFD’s Firefighter of the Year Award, Above and Beyond Award and a top responder since he completed the volunteer academy in 2013. 

And now the younger Franks, who was inspired by his father’s entry into firefighting, has followed in his footsteps, as part of HFD’s 2018 academy. “I wish that I had the focus that he does,” Kevin said.  

“I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up,” he added as a joke. Jonathan started his journey to become a firefighter in the district’s Explorers Program, and by helping his dad clean the Brightwood station, participating in joint training exercises between the volunteers and the explorers, working on “burn to learn” events and when Jonathan could go on certain calls as an observer, including with his dad.  

“It’s really awesome to see him working, and I get to learn a lot from him,” said Jonathan, 17. Jonathan will also graduate from Sandy High School this summer and then join the Jefferson County fire student program. 

The Explorer Program is open to young people from sixth grade through high school, offering an entry point for those interested in firefighting. HFD Battalion Chief Linn Norgard serves as the Explorers Guide and noted that while the program limits some of what the students can do, they get to learn most of what firefighters learn, with a focus on support. “I’ve lost count how many of our explorers have gone on to be firefighters,” Norgard said, adding that two current members of the paid staff, Evan Jarvis and Tyler Myers, started in the Explorers Program. 

Norgard noted that Jonathan stood out due to “his willingness to do just about anything.”

Jonathan added that the shift from Explorers to the volunteer training academy means more heavy lifting, using more tools and expanding the range of skills. “It’s been a pretty big leap,” he said. 

Kevin noted that aspects of the volunteer academy has changed even in the few years since he was a part of it, with new and better techniques for things like advancing hoses and forcing entry into a building. 

“The department has really embraced that,” he said, adding that those recruits who were also part of the Explorers Program had a “leg up.”  

Meanwhile, Kevin’s wife, Krista, also contributes to the district as a member of the support group. “I think once you get involved, it’s a family thing,” Kevin said. “No matter how much you put into this, you always get much more out of it. It’s our community, it’s our neighborhood.”

Garth Guibord/MT

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