Written by | TASHANA SMITH |
Amarillo College has a fire academy that gives individuals the opportunity to become certified firefighters anywhere in the United States. According to Dennis Eaves, the fire protection instructor, students rent their fire gear from an independent company because AC is unable to pay for it.
The fire trucks and the facility that are used during training are owned by the city of Amarillo. The fire academy has an agreement with the city to use them. Along with the students, professional firefighters also can take courses and training to achieve promotions and advancements. There are classes in the daytime for those who cannot attend evening classes and evening classes for those who cannot attend day classes.
Fire academy students receive more than 500 hours of training. Forty percent of that training is spent in the classroom taking tests, and the other 60 percent is spent on the field. Most of the instructors teach part-time and are firefighters from around the Texas Panhandle. The students are taught from state, national and local standards. When they train, they enter a building that is smoking but not actually burning and go searching for the dummy that was placed inside to represent a victim. They make sure everyone in the building has been evacuated.
Students train using hazardous materials and also perform vehicle extractions in case there is a victim stuck in a car. When practicing, they have various groups such as Engine 2, Engine 3 and Engine 5. “We have a really good completion rate from our students,” Eaves said. “We also have had a minimal accident rate this year. In the past years, we may have had maybe one or two, but this is a better year.”
Toward the end of the program, students gear up and actually go inside a burning building to see if they can find any dummies simulated as victims. During the exercise, they report back to the leader on a walkie-talkie to let the leader know the currency of the situation at hand. It is an all-inclusive academy with mostly hands-on training.
When students pass the training and the written test requirements, they can go on and take the state exam to become certified firefighters. The AC certification applies to any firefighting positions in the United States. “We have some good students in our program,” Eaves said. “They are here to learn how to become a professional firefighter.”