As Stafford’s High School Firefighter Program nears the completion of its inaugural year, officials are pleased with the success of the program and would like to consider expanding it in the future with emergency medical technician (EMT) training. The program, a partnership with Stafford County Public Schools, is designed to prepare students for a career in the fire service and to encourage them to volunteer with Stafford Fire and Rescue. Twelve students participated this year from Stafford’s five high schools and two have already applied to Stafford’s next Career Recruit Academy class.
“Recruiting and retaining career firefighters and volunteers is something we are very committed to in Stafford County. This program is one of the tools we are using to accomplish that goal,” said Fire Chief Joseph Cardello. “The students who participated this year have been an outstanding first class and we are very pleased with their progress as well as the progress of the program.” Chief Cardello said he hopes the program will provide interested graduates with a pipeline to a career with Stafford County Fire and Rescue. For graduates who choose a different career path, he hopes the program will encourage them to become lifelong volunteer firefighters in the county.
Master Technician Scott Strain, of Stafford County Fire and Rescue, is the course’s director and lead instructor. Assorted members of Fire and Rescue have helped him with training the program participants in all phases of firefighting including live burns, search and rescue and hazardous materials training. When the students finish the program, they will be tested to gain National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) certification at the Firefighter 1 and 2 levels.
Students spend about 20 hours in class each week developing firefighting skills. They also must join one of Stafford County’s volunteer companies, a move designed to help them hone their skills and feel more a part of the firefighter family. As well, class activities and volunteering help foster teambuilding and camaraderie. This year, the students have put in more than 4,000 hours of training in class and volunteering.
North Stafford Now, a news show at North Stafford High School, recently profiled the program and the students in a video on YouTube. The video showcases the students and their desire to give back to the community. It also shows participants performing training in and out of the classroom. The video may be viewed at http://www.youtu.be/wHHgKe8ansE.
The High School Firefighting Program is a one-year program, taught at Fire Station 2 on Jason Mooney Drive, open to high school juniors and seniors. Registration for the 2021 program is open through February 25. Interested students should contact their guidance counselors for more information.