Students demonstrate firefighting techniques at Fire and Rescue Academy open house

January 12, 2013|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Firefighters demonstrate putting out a vehicle fire Saturday at Washington County Public Schools' Fire and Rescue Academy open house.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

It’s not an everyday open house where parents stand watching their children run into fiery buildings and battle raging infernos.

But that’s just what was on the agenda Saturday afternoon at Washington County Public Schools’ Fire and Rescue Academy open house.

“Folks, these are high school students who just did all that,” said Jamie Drawbaugh, training coordinator for the academy. “They could be coming to your house.”

The 14 students of the academy had just put out fires in a van and in a burn house in two simulated incidents at the Hagerstown Fire Department Training Center.

Academy Director Sharon Chirgott said while the academy is channeled through Washington County Technical High School, instruction occurs at South Hagerstown High School and at the training center.

Jeff and Melissa Davis of Leitersburg were on hand to watch their son, Robert Davis, 16, a junior at Smithsburg High School.

“It’s fascinating to watch how they get in there and really get the job done,” Jeff Davis said.

Sophomores in the school system visit the technical high school for juniors and seniors, observing brief presentations about each of the technical areas. Following the visit, they identify two programs that they might want to explore for an additional half day.

More than 130 students expressed interest in fire and rescue this year, Chirgott said, but academy content does not lend itself well to the traditional half-day visit, so coordinators established the training center open house. Prospective academy students attended, as well as families of current students. 

“The students here are demonstrating what they have learned. You can’t take this into a class,” she said, indicating the smoldering fire scenes. “It’s either in the building or it’s here.”

Drawbaugh said academy students can earn up to 16 credits through the University of Maryland, and they must meet minimum qualifications to be hired by a professional fire department.

“That’s about $50,000 a year, working nine days a month. That’s not bad,” he said.

Alexis Wampole, 15, of Hagerstown, said she has wanted to be a firefighter for as long as she can remember, and attending the open house Saturday confirmed that.

“I was interested in the academy. I thought it was cool. This got me even more excited,” she said.

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