Job hunt uncovers a passion for firefighting


Ezra Fax

FIREMAN: Senior Sammy Ellenhorn stands in front of firehouse 63 in Venice where he worked this summer training to become a cadet.

Sammy Ellenhorn, now In 11th grade, looked for a job last summer but ended up finding a passion for a career that he might later pursue in his life.

He worked at Los Angeles Fire Station No. 63, near Venice Beach.

“I wanted a new experience outside of the Jewish bubble,” said Sammy. “It was also something I was really interested in and something that I may pursue as a career.”

The idea was suggested to him by a friend who is a police cadet. Sammy searched for programs in multiple fire stations before finding one that had space for him to join.

This one was called “Cadet Program Station No. 63,” run by Fireman Engineer Robert Hays.  

Cleanly shaven, boots on his feet, watch on his wrist was how Sammy began his day in the station each morning at 6:30 a.m. He then did the job of a firefighter at the station, whether making coffee or doing drills.

He also threw ladders, practiced search and rescue, and learned how to use a rotary saw.

Sammy’s favorite drill was the search and rescue drill, which is very similar to hide-and-go-seek, he said, but in the scenario of a fireman. People participating in the drill wore full gear — gloves, masks (blacked out to simulate poor vision in fire), an oxygen tank, a helmet, a coat, and pants.

Then, sweltering under all the equipment and with poor eyesight, he mock-searched for firemen acting as people trapped in the fire.

While being searched for, they made beeping noises that helped locate them, but other fireman made other noises at the same time to simulate the noise of a building on fire.

And in addition to lack of vision and mobility, the oxygen tank runs out of air after a while, and he had to switch tanks before choking out.

The program put Sammy to the test, he said, both physically and mentally.

Even though school has started, he’s still going to the fire station once or twice a week.  He must commit to the fire station cadet program for seven to 10 months in order to complete 16 drills and become certified.

“You have to be self-motivated in order to pass the drills, said Sammy Ellenhorn. “You have to go out and educate yourself.”

If he gets there, privileges will include riding in a firetruck and being on site when there is a fire. First, he’ll have to train in three different stations over the course of a year.  

Sammy believes that he will finish the program and later complete the other requirements to become a certified fireman. Fireman Hays, the program’s director, thinks so too.

“I think he is doing an outstanding job in the program,” Fireman Hays said in an interview. “He has been taking initiative and really shows a passion to become a firefighter.

 “Sammy is taking steps in the right direction to become a certified cadet.”

Sammy is not sure yet, but is considering being a reserve or a full time fireman when he is older.

“It is really something that makes me grow and become more mature,” he said.