08 Jun TIMELY IDEAS
“EDUCATION IS NOT THE FILLING OF A PAIL,
BUT THE LIGHTING OF A FIRE.”
William Butler Yeats
I ran across a posting by Joe Denoyer on the Kansas State Firefighters Association site and the subject he wrote about is great. Great for the fire service, great for students, and great for all of us who depend on the fire departments of the state to keep us safe and defend our property from fire and the elements.
It is about a program in Liberal at Seward County Community College. It is about their Fire Science Program and a unique partnership with the College, Liberal FD, and Seward County FD. The program is a fantastic idea that continues the Liberal High School Fire Science program with the college level program.
What it entails is a new fire station to be built at the SCCC campus. There will be a resident instructor and starting out with five students that live at the station and will have their education partially paid for. It will provide housing and meals. It will also provide five to begin with and eventually ten full time firefighters that will respond with Liberal and Seward County Fire Departments. The added plus is the availability of this station for large regional fires.
The students will be required to carry a full 15 hour minimum course load at the school. The students will be certified as firefighters as soon as possible and will be supervised by trained personnel. With the addition to the students responsibilities the college will allow them to respond when there is a call but all school work must be completed.
Two year graduates will be ready to go into any fire department either full time or volunteer. It allows students that get their educations the opportunities to go back to their home communities or go on to other higher education or into the fire service anywhere in the country.
I see that this could be a program that could be adopted by other colleges. Garden City, Great Bend, Hutchinson, and Butler County have fire science programs and I can see this adding to the availability of full time personnel and equipment in each of these communities.
The residential program that allows for the student to not only get hands on training but also practical experience. With the added bonus of getting the education and housing paid for. This also gives a student a good lesson in responsibility. When I joined the Sedgwick County Fire Department (District #1) I had the advantage of doing hands on training and work through Sedgwick County Civil Preparedness. I had been riding tail board for several months at the station I would eventually work in. This gave me a leg up since there was no training academy at that time.
The day I worked my first shift my gear went right on the engine. After three shifts of instruction I was driving and operating Engine 3. At this time a Wichita Firefighter went through the training academy and rode tail board until several years experience then was promoted to driver and engineer.
With the crew I was working with after 17 months (still a rookie) I was senior firefighter in the station. When one of the officers was off I became acting lieutenant. Talk about getting experience that hard way. I learned and learned fast. The responsibilities were tremendous. At this time the department ran 2 man engine companies and 1 man tank operator. A standard structure response was 2 engines, a tank, and a chief officer. That makes a 5 man response crew. At the same time WFD was running five man crews on an engine out of the main downtown stations and responded 3 engines, 1 truck company, and a chief officer with his driver.
Education for college level started at Wichita State University, which was one of a handful of universities nationwide with a Fire Science Program. The complication and increasing hazards of the fire service and improvements of EMS have facilitated the awareness and availability of these types of fire programs across the country.
This new concept at Seward County is a major step in the process of having trained professionals in the fire service all the way down to the volunteer ranks. It also is a great program for a student to get an education that actually gives marketable skills when they get out of school. Much better than an English major or a Psychology major whose entry level positions many times begin at McDonalds.
I hope and pray that every high school and college in Kansas looks at this program and decides to implement it in their communities.