NAMPA, Idaho — Not only has the College of Western Idaho’s new Fire Service Technology program better prepared 15 future firefighters for the job, to one of the students, Christine Mann, it’s also taught her the importance of teamwork.
The Idaho Press reports Mann was one of 15 students — and the only woman — to take part in the first 16-week Fire Service Technology course offered by CWI. On Thursday night, the students graduated with their certification in fire service technology.
Completion of the 13-credit course qualifies them to take the Firefighter 1 test with fire departments.
This program actually opens up more possibilities for the future firefighters, said Darrin Raskopf, director of Fire Service Technology at the college. With the level 1 ranking, they can apply for both new hire jobs and lateral jobs, meaning coming from a different fire department with experience.
“It gives us the opportunity to train the people who live in the valley, to give them a good opportunity to get employed at one of our own local fire departments,” Raskopf said.
The 15 graduates were selected from a pool of about 80 applicants, he said. Just like being hired by an actual fire department, applicants had to apply, pass a health test and background check, and be interviewed before taking part in the program.
Fire chiefs throughout the state helped design the course. The 18 instructors are all from local fire departments.
"It's been really cool, especially to work with other firefighters in the valley," said Austin Cross, a student of the program. "That’s unique because we get to learn a little bit about each department."
During the fall semester, the students spent a lot of time in the classroom, but they also were able to do many practical exercises to understand what firefighters do. Raskopf said the students did a live burn, which taught the students how well their turnout gear, or protective firefighter clothing, works in fires. He said turnouts can withstand heat up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
For 30-year-old Cross, the academy was more physically challenging than he anticipated. He remembered in the first couple of weeks when class started, they were asked to put their turnouts on in the summer heat and had to run up and down the stairs at the training center on Railroad Street in Nampa until they ran out of air.
"That’s when it hit me like, 'Wow, this is tough,'" Cross said.
But with all of the physical training they've done in the semester, he feels equipped to pass any test, he said.
Mann said she found the class has been rewarding. She’s been able to do things she once thought she wasn’t strong enough to do, like lift a ladder.
Being someone who's uncomfortable doing things she couldn’t do well, she said there was always someone to help her.
“I just really started to appreciate the importance of a team and how I can accomplish more than I ever thought — not because I can do it, but because we can do it as a team,” Mann said.
Graduation from the program is not the end of the road just yet for these students. They still have to apply to fire departments and pass those tests before becoming firefighters.
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