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EMT and Fire Science an interest for BMHS and EVHS students

Cindy Ramunno

Two very different kids with a lot of the same interests moved to the valley in the fourth grade eight years ago. Rebekah Johnson moved to Gypsum from Grand Junction and is now a senior at Eagle Valley High, and Battle Mountain senior Ben Park came to the valley from Denver. Both ” along with Matt Nichols (also a senior from Battle Mountain) ” are now fire cadets for the Gypsum Fire Protection District.

The Gypsum Fire Protection District is the only fire district in the valley that runs a cadet program, which takes high school kids ” ages 14 to 18 ” through training drills and fire education. Once the students are 18 years old, they can go on fire calls to actually fight the blaze. “We are grateful for community programs such as this one,” says Eagle County School District superintendent John Brendza. “It helps students determine what path they want to take by offering real life experiences,” Brendza adds.

Nichols started attending the cadet program this year and has decided against a future career in the field. He’ll be attending the University of Colorado this fall. Nichols is super involved at Battle Mountain, where he served as captain of the rugby team and played golf. The rugby team is actually a high school club sport; however the guys are still Huskies. “We play teams that include Legacy, Fort Collins and Carbondale,” explains Nichols. Nichols also helped spearhead the famous Trash Can Drum Core at Battle Mountain, where members play different drum beats on trash cans to support their sports teams. Although Nichols is undecided in what he’ll study this fall, his current teachers say that this well-rounded guy will succeed at whatever he pursues.



Johnson is the lone girl and only Eagle Valley High School senior in the cadet program. Johnson’s dad, Patrick, is already a member in Gypsum and also volunteered for the department in Grand Junction. With four girls in the house ” Rebekah has a 20-year-old sister and twin 10-year-old sisters ” Patrick asked both older girls if they wanted to join the cadet program. “My older sister said ‘no way’ and I said ‘sure, dad’,” smiles Johnson. Johnson also has an aunt and uncle in Silverton who are emergency responders. She went on to say that she hated it the first year and didn’t go much. Now she’s there all of the time. Johnson has a love for older people and has spent time working in various aspects of the health field, including a nursing home and a neonatal unit. She’s always known that helping people in some way would be her future.

After a scary car wreck in April of 2003, her career goals became clearer. “I was the driver in the wreck and at the time, I didn’t know how bad it was,” sighs Johnson. “The WECAD (Western Eagle County Ambulance District) and especially Curtis, made a big impact on me that day,” says Johnson. Johnson described how they helped her stay calm and focused and she was amazed by their skills and talents in what was a panicky situation for her. All kids were OK in the wreck, but the experience has stuck with her. “I’m not fire-crazy,” says Johnson, who will complete her EMT class this month and is heading towards the medical path. She hears constantly how great her dad is in the profession and she hopes to also follow in his footsteps. “If I can have even a tiny impact in the life of someone, then I’ll be happy,” ends Johnson.



Park got into the program through a friend and is fire crazy. He’s finishing the EMT program at Colorado Mountain College with Johnson, and is leaning towards fire fighting as a career ” he will also pursue a degree in fire science at CMC. “I’ve wanted to fight fires since I was a little kid,” says Park. Park has a 20-year-old brother who attends the University of Colorado. After high school ” like Johnson ” Park will be heading out on fire calls for Gypsum. Park’s parents have supported him and have taught him to work hard. “My parent always drilled into us (my brother and me) how important a strong work ethic is,” says Park.

So … if you happen to find yourself in a house fire or on the side of the road, don’t be surprised if you see Park or Johnson by your side. Gypsum Fire Chief Dave Vroman says he’s confident in the kids’ skills and level of potential. The long-standing cadet program has been taking place for the last 14 years. Vroman says, “These are good kids.”

To learn more about the cadet program, call 524-7101.


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