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Rural/Metro Incorporating Firefighter Training Into High School Curriculum

From left to right: Lt. Ryan McNamara, Chase Sutton, Chandler King, Jeremy Martin, James Hurst, Justin Johnson, Corey Bunch and Lt. Brian Woods. Photo by Dan Andrews.

Seven high school seniors are currently enrolled in an innovative, one-year Career and Technical Education (CTE) course offered at South-Doyle High School that will give them the opportunity to become a licensed firefighter and guarantee them a job as a Rural/Metro reserve firefighter. Rural/Metro Fire Department has partnered with Knox County Schools to bring Rural/Metro’s 240-hour Fire Cadet Academy training program to South-Doyle High School for the 2012-2013 school year.
“This is the first program of its kind not just in Knox County, not just in the state, but in the nation,” said Brian Woods, Rural/Metro Fire Department Lieutenant and instructor at South-Doyle. “This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity, and we’re guaranteeing these seniors a job if they complete the course.”
Rural/Metro carries the full cost of the program, and the program, curriculum and instructors have been approved through the Tennessee Department of Education.  Instructor Brian Woods is also certified by the Tennessee Commission on Fire Fighting and has been training firefighters for more than 20 years.
“We got the idea from a group of Swedish high school firefighter students that we host at our fire stations each year,” Rural/Metro Fire Chief Jerry Harnish said. “In their home country, they attend a school where survival courses are part of their curriculum to train them for careers as firefighters or EMTs after graduation. It’s a highly successful program, and we thought, ‘Why can’t we do that here?’”
The course is split into two separate phases. During the first phase, the seven students meet for the first class of the day, which lasts approximately an hour and 20 minutes. Over the entire school year, this equals a little more than 200 hours of instructional time.
The students attend lectures and hands-on practical training that takes place outside in an unused parking lot. Students learn important skills like how to handle fire hoses, climb ladders, use hand tools properly and other firefighting techniques.
During the summer, any student 18 years or older that completes the course and receives a high school diploma will have the opportunity to complete a finishing school. During this phase, students will participate in live fire training exercises, ride on Rural/Metro fire trucks and complete other practical firefighter training. Successful completion of this phase makes the students eligible to take the Firefighter 1 test.
If students choose to go to college, they can work at Rural/Metro part-time and live in the fire station while they go to school. They will also have the opportunity to complete training to become a licensed emergency medical technician (EMT).
“Through our partnership with Knox County Schools, we are paving the way for the nation,” Harnish said. “We are giving these kids a head start on their career and a leg up to achieving their goals. We’ve been extremely impressed with the students in this program and look forward to having them as valuable members of our squad.”
It takes three years to truly integrate a CTE program into the school system because many students set their schedules for all four years of high school when they are a freshman or sophomore. After three years, Knox County Schools plans to expand the program into other schools. Woods said he has been approached by school systems throughout the country that are interested in this innovative program.

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