This fall’s section of the Delaware Area Career Center Adult Firefighting program features the highest enrollment in recent years, officials reported last week.
The program’s numbers have fluctuated in the past few years, but hit a high this year after 27 students enrolled in the fall section of the course, reported Alicia Mowry, public relations supervisor at the DACC.
Mowry said the course had only 13 students in the spring of 2017 and had only 14 in the fall of 2016. The previous high for the program’s enrollment was 19 students in spring 2011.
DACC Fire Coordinator Kevin Murphy attributes part of the growth to the program’s reputation for quality.
“This is not a walk in the park,” Murphy said. “We will see a different side of them.”
The ongoing course began in August and trainees are already expected to be able to fully gear up in one minute and 30 seconds and the entire class will do extra physical training for every second after that time expires.
When one student takes too long, an instructor points out that they have lost critical seconds and said it could result in injury and risk the lives of other firefighters.
“We don’t catch house fires every day, but when we do we have to have our stuff squared away,” Murphy said. “We produce high-quality, adequate firefighters here at DACC. These firefighters walk into (a) fire house and know they did not receive a fire card, they earned it.”
Trainee Kenzie Crawford, 23, of Marengo, said the training is challenging and reminded her of her basic training from the National Guard.
“I have nothing but good things to say about it,” Crawford said. “The motivation level behind the instructors here is 100 percent better than anything I’ve ever been to. I really appreciate that level of intensity.”
Crawford said she currently volunteers at the Big Walnut Joint Fire District and had the program recommended to her by Fire Chief Lauri Lovell.
“She was adamant that I come here,” Crawford said. “She knew how well it works and the great firefighters that come out of it. Firefighting is not an easy vocation; why should the training be easy?”
Nick Leidheiser, 20, of Lewis Center, said the training isn’t just physically taxing, it’s academically rigorous as well. Trainees in the program have a 1,600 page book to study and have to take a number of tests and exams.
“[By week six] we’ve had three exams, and we must maintain a 70 percent at a minimum,” Leidheiser said. “Firefighting is not just putting the wet stuff on the red stuff, it’s chemistry. You have to learn to do things by the book so that when you go out in the field you have an understanding of what you are getting into and how things work, mechanically.”
Murphy said the students will take six module exams and one final exam throughout the course. He said the modules include topics like fire behavior, building construction, and personal equipment.
Leidheiser said that one of the best things about the program is the diversity of instructors.
“One of the things that I can say about the instructors here is that there’s a wide variety,” Leidheiser said. “There’s guys from all over Central Ohio, it’s not just one department. You’ll get views from big city guys, township guys, guys that run volunteers. It’s cool to get a different view of the fire service from different types of firefighters. That’s what’s really good about it.”
The program is already accepting applications for the spring 2018 section. Applications can be found on the DACC’s website.
“Becoming a firefighter isn’t just a career – it’s a lifestyle and a commitment to serve our community,” said Tom Marchetti, DACC Director of Adult Education. “In fact, all of our instructors for this program are full-time firefighters who are passionate about providing this critical training for our first responders. We’re pleased to see the firefighting program at the adult level continue to grow and we couldn’t do it without the support from local fire departments and our dedicated staff.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.