ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior High School students have the option to enroll in a hot new program offered through the school’s Career Technical Education department: fire fighter technology.
The Rockingham city council voted to donate firetruck — which was retired from the fleet in 2014 — to the school system last Tuesday night, enabling RSHS to meet the requirements for having a fire academy.
According to fire fighter technology teacher Vic McCaskill, the program consists of three core classes.
“Fire Fighter Technology I is learning fire department orientation and safety,” McCaskill explained. “They’re going over the safety concepts of being a firefighter and the rules we must follow, understanding the policies and standard operating guidelines.”
(Part) II is going over the physical fitness and health and wellness requirements of a firefighter, (including) how they manage stress, the healthy ways of eating, the necessary exercises we must do,” he continued. “(Part) III is studying fire behavior and the science behind it. We’re going over combustion, how to read smoke as well as teaching them how fire behaves.”
Several students in the program are already volunteer or junior firefighters. Kirsten Smith, an 11th-grader, volunteers at Cordova Fire and Rescue.
“…the lessons we’re learning here in class can definitely be incorporated into my position there,” Smith said. “Most of what we’re learning is hands-on, like safety and stuff like that.”
Fellow Cordova volunteers Nicholas Callahan, a senior, and 10th-grader Breanna Chavis, agree that the classes have a real-world impact.
“I’ve learned more about health and wellness as well as the behavior of fire,” Callahan said. “There’s more to firefighting than just jumping into a truck. You have to also be in shape if you want to help the community in this capacity.”
“It’s a lot more than what you would think,” Chavis said.
Matthew Gulledge, another 10th-grader, is a volunteer firefighter with Hoffman Fire Department.
“I’ve been a volunteer firefighter for the past two years,” Gulledge said. “And I figured I’d take this class to earn my certifications quicker. Firefighting’s been in my family for the past decade. My grandpa was a fire chief and my daddy was a lieutenant, so I was pretty much made for it.”
McCaskill said the class will focus on gear in an upcoming lesson.
“Next week, we start Personal Protection Equipment, where they’ll be putting all the gear on, wearing masks and knowing how to properly name every piece of safety equipment they have,” he explained.
McCaskill added that for students who want to take the next step into a firefighter’s career, the program covers much of the groundwork they’ll need to move on after graduation.
“Students in the classes have the opportunity to earn firefighter certification through the office of the State Fire Marshall,” he said. “They can take all necessary classes except fire control and hazmat here at Richmond Senior High School. Additionally, to become fully firefighter certified you must be 18 years old and serving on a department.”
The program is still in its early stages, but McCaskill said examining similar programs in other districts has been helpful.
“I’ve been to West Montgomery High School and Bladen County High School to look over their programs and speak with their instructors,” he explained. “Both programs have been successful and up and running for three to four years.”
The program is the latest addition to numerous courses available through Richmond County Schools’ CTE programs.
“Everything we do can lead to a job,” said Richmond County Schools CTE Director Sharon Johnson. “Richmond Senior High School currently offers 13 CTE pathways with classes and certification opportunities ranging from automotive, advanced manufacturing and carpentry to law and justice, horticulture and marketing.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673.