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County schools to offer fire, rescue training

April 18, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Treating wounds and fighting fires will be part of the school day for a group of Washington County students next year.

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For the first time, high school seniors can get firefighting, emergency medical and rescue training through an afternoon course at Hagerstown Community College.

The Washington County Fire and Rescue Association is offering the free course in conjunction with Washington County Technical High School. It is open to high school seniors only.

"We're trying to keep the volunteer system viable but also create career opportunities and educational opportunities," said Robert Cumberland, administrative planner for the Fire and Rescue Association.

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Several other Maryland counties already offer similar programs through their school systems, Cumberland said. In Frederick and Carroll counties, 12 to 16 students sign up every year, he said.

Cumberland visited each of Washington County's high schools to gauge interest in the program. He said 17 students showed interest. He will discuss the program at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium of the technical school.

In order to take the course, students must first join a local fire department. Cumberland said that will cover liability. In general, the student must submit an application to the department and its members will vote on it.

Seniors taking the course will leave school at about 12:30 p.m. and go to HCC until 3:30 p.m. The course involves training in separate disciplines such as hazardous materials, firefighting and rescue.

Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute instructors teach each discipline. There will be a written exam and practical tests at the end of each course section.

For example, students may have to demonstrate how they would handle a broken femur in the emergency medical part, which takes a total of 130 hours. Once they pass the tests, students can get state certification.

The entire course includes 351 hours of class time and training. Students will also gain hands-on experience at the Hagerstown Fire Department's fire training facility and during controlled burnings, Cumberland said.

Students will earn three credits for the course, which most colleges accept toward a degree, he said. The course is a good primer for studying nursing, medicine or fire science in college, he said.

Of course, the course isn't only for the college bound. Students can choose to make firefighting or emergency medicine a career.

Hagerstown Fire Department is the only paid department in Washington County, but many surrounding jurisdictions have paid services, Cumberland said. Members of the Fire and Rescue Association work in Baltimore, Montgomery and Howard counties, he said.

Students who take the course won't be obligated to serve a fire or rescue service agency after graduation. But Cumberland said becoming an emergency worker is rewarding and the course teaches valuable skills.

"You're out there being able to help your fellow man," he said. "They always say we're a special breed."

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