By KIM BLACK
Amarillo College fire academy’s 50th class will take their final exam April 9, 2022, with 16 cadets expected to graduate. On May 16, 2022, the 51st class will graduate 13 more cadets.
“Fifty classes is a milestone, but we try to make every graduation special,” Chief Stephen Malley, director of public safety professions, said.
Beyond this year’s graduation, AC’s fire academy has big plans for the future. It will be moving to a new facility at the old Sunset Center location on Plains Boulevard in the fall of 2023.
The new venue will consolidate EMT and paramedic training with the fire academy and police academy. “It will be a one-stop-shop for anyone wanting to go into public service,” Malley said.
The new academy will be outfitted with all new gear, including SCBA (air packs), rescue tools, hoses and other essential equipment, Malley said. He hopes the upcoming expansion will bring attention to the fire academy and educate the public about the training program.
“With a minimal investment of time and money, a cadet can graduate from the fire academy today and have a job waiting for them tomorrow,” Malley said.
There are few requirements to apply to the academy. “Mainly a clean background,” Malley said. The academy does require some physical ability, but there are no prerequisite courses. “This can be your first college class,” he said.
According to Malley, firefighters in the Amarillo area can expect a $45,000 a year starting salary. “In other places, they can make even more,” Malley said.
EMT training is also required for firefighters, but Texas certification transfers anywhere in the country. “As well as other countries,” Malley said.
The training includes instruction from active-duty firefighters to help cadets gain insight from the field. “They bring their perspectives from different departments,” Malley said.
Representatives from several area fire departments also speak to the classes, showing cadets how mobile the career is.
Mobility and potential earnings were just a few reasons the cadets in class 51 joined the academy.
“Family played a big role in my decision,” Evan Pearson said.
Several cadets have family members in public service who inspired them to join the fire academy.
“My family is very supportive. My wife is in health care,” Jeremy Wilson said.
“My uncle is a captain in Lubbock at the Attorney General’s office, and my mom is a nurse,” Marshall White said.
“I wanted a career, not just a regular job,” Andrea Perez said.
“I want to be something that I can wake up every day and be proud of. Like I’ve never worked a single day,” Noah Nelson said.
“We all have a willingness to help people,” Tori Rivera said. “We signed up to be superheroes.”