When you ask Firefighter Joe Scamardo what he’s enjoyed the most over the last 30 years of working in the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), he doesn’t hesitate when he replies: “Starting the cadet program here at Fire Station 106, that’s what I’m proud of the most.” As his smile broadens, he goes on to say, “I didn’t do it to be recognized at the time or down the road . . . I did it to help the kids who started out like me, looking for someone to guide them in the right direction.”
Born and raised in Canoga Park, Scamardo’s interest in medicine began while attending Pierce College. Enrolled in the college’s first-ever Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class, perhaps it was fate that the teachers of this class were none other than LAFD paramedics. Beginning his journey in public safety as an EMT and then paramedic for the Pruner Ambulance Company in Thousand Oaks, he started with the LAFD in 1988 and served as a paramedic for seven years before becoming a firefighter.
After serving at stations throughout the department’s jurisdiction, Scamardo was befriended by a pair of local kids at Fire Station (FS) 106 (where he currently assigned) who expressed exuberant interest in the fire service. At that time, Scamardo recalls, having them around his workplace was a struggle without the proper supervisory program in place. Realizing the need for a Cadet program (previously known as Explorer programs) at FS 106, he began to look at other stations’ programs to see which model he might duplicate. Following an extensive amount of research, he eventually decided to base his program’s model, Cadet Post 106, on the department’s drill tower recruit training. Scamardo feels that by using the drill tower as the model for his post’s operations, it in turn helps cadets win “half the battle” should they choose to become firefighters down the road.
The experiences at Cadet Post 106 teach responsibility, teamwork and loyalty, qualities that all workplaces value. Scamardo only asks for one thing in return from his cadets when their time to leave the program has finally come. “Call me when you make it,” he says, “that’s all I want in return from you.”
The LAFD Cadet Program is open for students and young adults between the ages of 14 and 21 and can be repeated at will. The program offers the opportunity to work side-by-side with members of the LAFD to learn the duties and responsibilities of being a firefighter. Members of the LAFD who assist in the program do so voluntarily on their own time.
To learn more about the cadet program, visit: Los Angeles Fire Department Cadet Program