Youth Search and Rescue (YSAR) students are training in an American (USA) national park where firefighters have battled deadly wildfires.
Sophie Wardell, Jack Niles, Laura Degas and Tom Hoffart, aged 15 to 18, are participating in a four-day training exercise with the Marin County Search and Rescue team in Yosemite National Park.
The students arrived in San Francisco on Sunday with instructor Neil Penniston, who said they had just arrived at the national park where there were wildfires still burning.
However, Penniston said the team was training alongside the very experienced Marin County Youth Search and Rescue team and did not feel in danger. “We feel 100 per cent confident going into the area we are going into … The park is so vast there is areas where we will still be able to train in,” he said. “We are with a very competent bunch of young individuals.”
Penniston said the Western Bay students had offered their services to help battle the Californian wildfire which had claimed the life of heavy fire equipment operator Braden Varney, 36.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials have said the fire had spread to more than 17,000 acres (6800ha) since the wildfire began on Friday night.
The Ferguson fire had seized parts of the Mariposa county area, threatened about 108 homes and businesses and had more than 1800 local and state firefighters deployed to battle the blaze.
Penniston said the students had so far learned valuable rope skills with their hosts and were treated to a county dog team demonstration.

Youth Search and Rescue (YSAR) is an independent, non-profit, charity with the core objectives to train young people to become community volunteers in Search and Rescue and Civil Defence – apply online

YSAR online applications are now open for the 2019 intake. We have 22 positions available for College students in year 11 and are wanting a diverse group of young people. The learning modules and activities are designed to provide opportunities for young people to participate in emergency response, bushcraft, leadership, mentoring, volunteering and healthy outdoor activities. They are designed to promote resilience, a sense of self-worth and to develop skills and provide learning experiences and challenges. Students will graduate from the three-year program with ‘learning transcripts’ which will include their participation in innovation and technology projects aligned to real world problems in Search and Rescue and Civil Defence Emergency Management. They cover a range of skills and specialist areas, all managed through a central learning management system. As well as the very real benefit to the community in terms of rescue services, YSAR’s commitment to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) opens up significant career pathways for students.
These young people will be well equipped to maximize their potential. To quote co-founder and general manager of YSAR, Steve Campbell ,“We’re aiming to create multi-skilled young people who will be invaluable to their community. It’s highly likely some of our students will go on to save lives but they’re also going to be great human beings.” This is a very exciting training opportunity utilising the latest in innovation and technology in SAR and CDEM. So if you like the outdoors, if you are physically fit, interested in technology like Drones, digital and satellite technology, thermal imaging, navigation, emergency and disaster response, camping and tramping then students will love being on this training programme.

Steve Campbell
General Manager
YSAR New Zealand