Washington County Fire & Rescue Academy graduates boast lifesaving skills

June 04, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE |
  • Smithsburg High School senior Samantha Palmer, right, shakes hands with instructor Dan Garnand as she picks up her Washington County Fire & Rescue Academy graduation certificate Monday night at South Hagerstown High School.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Every school day for the past year, 15 Washington County students got out of regular classes just after lunch to cut apart cars, crawl through narrow openings and use rope to rappel out of buildings.

Sounds like fun, right?

But for those students, it was more than just fun. They’re now certified lifesavers.

Representing numerous area fire and rescue departments, all 15 students graduated from the Washington County Fire & Rescue Academy during a ceremony Monday night at South Hagerstown High School.

James Kyle Grissom, a soon-to-be South High graduate and volunteer for Community Rescue Service and the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Department, said he had no training at all when he entered the program during his junior year.

Now, he’s in the process of becoming a paid firefighter in Frederick County, Md., with hopes of moving on one day to Washington, D.C.

“This program will get you all of your fire classes, and all of your EMT and rescue tech classes,” Grissom said. “Basically, right now I could go out and save someone’s life ... legally.”

Instructor Dan Garnand said the two-year program, akin to the county’s vocational tech program, is structured for juniors and seniors interested in learning more about fire and rescue professions.

“They’ve put in a lot of time,” he said. “There’s a lot of homework each night, a lot of studying, a lot of team-building activities.”

This year’s program centered on training for emergency medical technicians, as well as rescue techniques, such as using the Jaws of Life to remove a person from a wrecked vehicle.

While students learn skills that will help them join the fire and rescue work force in the future, training also allows them to serve their communities right now, Garnand said.

“They’re giving back as well as looking forward to the future,” he said.

And the program — now about 10 years old — continues to grow. Garnand expects next year’s class to be the largest yet, with 25 to 27 students expected to sign up.

Samantha Palmer, who is a graduating senior at Smithsburg High School, said she plans to work for a year after high school, but hopes to land a job as a paid firefighter and follow in the footsteps of her parents.

“It runs in my family,” Palmer said. “It just runs in the blood.”

Grissom, who also comes from a fire-and-rescue family, said he wants to eventually be a police officer, but wants to “have fun” being a firefighter for a little while until then.

“Where else can you get an adrenaline high and save somebody’s life?” he said. “I remember I saved somebody and then three days later, they were at the carnival with their family. There’s nowhere else you can get that.”

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