Fallbrook Fire Explorer earns top honor

Brendan McReynolds, a member of Explorer Post 2740 (Fallbrook), has been recognized as the Fire Explorer of the Year for San Diego and Imperial Counties.

McReynolds, 18, received the honor at an awards banquet held Oct. 16 in Coronado.

“It (being named Explorer of the Year) is something that I’ve always wanted to achieve,” said McReynolds, a 2017 graduate of Fallbrook High School. “It really is a great feeling to know that all my hard work has paid off at this point.”

McReynolds isn’t one to sit on his laurels.

“From here I just want to continue to excel and strive to be better than what I am,” said McReynolds, adding that he wants “to always be on top of it – just continue the momentum that I have.”

The Fire Explorer program is designed for young men and women between the ages of 15 and 20 who have an interest in the fire service.

“The goal of the program is multifold,” said Fire Chief Steve Abbott of the North County Fire Protection District. “One is to provide exposure to the career, but equally important is to teach life skills and leadership skills. We’re really big on instilling values, and we think our program is pretty successful. Many Explorers – not all, certainly – but many will ultimately wind up with a career in the fire service somewhere. And they come with a very good reputation.”

Rob Hager, firefighter/paramedic for North County Fire, is a Fallbrook Explorer Post advisor. He said it was a “no-brainer” to nominate McReynolds for Fire Explorer of the Year.

“Brendan’s been in our post for about three years now and he has always done so much over and above what is asked,” said Hager. “I can’t say enough about his work ethic and how much time he spends dedicated to this post.”

Hager cited an example of McReynolds’ contributions to Explorer Post 2740 and North County Fire.

“We have six stations and he’s gone around to each one of them and, on his own time, established what we call ‘Explorer lockers,’” said Hager. “So when Explorers do ride alongs, they can get into these lockers, which have EMS codes, safety protection, goggles and things like that. He did that on his own, which was huge.”

Hager added that McReynolds is “really good with IT” and has set up many programs that have helped Explorer Post advisors manage and monitor the activities of Explorers. McReynolds also oversees the Explorers in the Fallbrook post.

“Brendan currently holds the rank of Explorer Chief, so he’s our lead Explorer,” said Hager.

McReynolds, who is currently enrolled in the EMT program at Palomar College, said he enjoys the role of Explorer Chief.

“My job is leading the new guys that we just took in, helping them to be successful through the Explorer Post,” said McReynolds. “Even if they don’t want to be a fireman and they just want to learn the life experiences, I believe that leadership is one of those things they’ll absolutely take away from being in this program. Leadership, team building, integrity – all those great things that the fire service holds dear to itself.”

Hagar said the Explorer Program is also about giving back to the community and that Explorers from Post 2740 can be seen helping out organizers at all major events in Fallbrook, from the Christmas and Veterans Day parades to assisting the VFW with placing flags on headstones of soldiers on Memorial Day.

“We do about 15 community events every year,” said Hagar, who noted that McReynolds has accumulated 455 hours of community service during his time with the Explorer Post.

McReynolds is following in the footsteps of his father, Keith McReynolds, a Battalion Chief with North County Fire. Brendan said it was his desire go on fire truck ride alongs with his dad that prompted him to join the Explorers.

“The Explorer Post was a great avenue to do ride alongs and learn the fire service,” said Brendan McReynolds. “I didn’t even go into the Explorer program wanting to be a fireman – I actually wanted to be a pilot – but through the course of things I changed my career path and I’m now pursuing fire service.”

Brendan McReynolds explained that Explorers have to be in the program at least three months and complete a pre-ride along task book before they can go out on a call.

“It goes over basic functions of the fire service, like pulling hose, doing ladder throws – things like that,” said Brendan McReynolds of the task book. “Kind of learning the basic skills so that when you do your first ride along and you’re asked to do something, you can at least perform that task. That’s one of the coolest parts of it. We’re never put in a dangerous situation – we’re always doing the safe stuff – but we’re essentially an extra hand on some scenes.”

Brendan McReynolds, who added that Explorers are CPR certified, said the on-the-job training that ride alongs provide are invaluable. Hagar mentioned in his nomination letter that Brendan had amassed 2,545 hours of ride alongs, including 1,036 in 2017.

“Ride alongs, in my opinion, are one of the best things you can do as an Explorer to gain the most experience and all the real world knowledge that you come across,” said Brendan McReynolds. “It’s kind of helped me to mature and not make the decisions that I see that some people have made and how it negatively affects them. Things like that.”

McReynolds’ future plans include applying to join the volunteer program at the Rainbow fire station to gain experience and then applying to the fire academy at Palomar College.

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