South Adams County firefighters introduce training program for high school students

April 10, 2024
junior firefighters in training

Partnership between firefighters and high school students in Colorado

On April 9, 2024, the South Adams County Fire Department (SACFD) announced a partnership with 27J Schools, initially incorporating Prairie View High School (PVHS), aimed at offering hands-on construction training on the SACFD training grounds.

Chris VanDijk, associated with South Adams County, International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFF) CO Local 5124, articulated the dual benefits of the program, stating: “It’s beneficial to us as a way of teaching them construction skills, but also possibly recruiting future firefighters by them getting to see what we do with the project.”

Fire Captain David Metish, also a member of Local 5124, played a pivotal role in securing a $490,000 grant from Adams County under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to launch this initiative.

Metish elaborated on the program’s structure: “We decided to bring the high school young adults off campus to the fire department training facility to learn leadership from firefighters and in return the firefighters can also take part and learn some building trades.”

A hands-on approach to learning and recruitment

The partnership is celebrated for offering practical, real-life experience that stands out in the Denver metro area.

Local 5124 President Augdon Greening praised the initiative, saying, “The partnership has been a fruitful one through providing real-life hands-on experience that is difficult to find anywhere else around the Denver metro area.”

The program involves the construction of a 1,000-square-foot house with the help of local contractors and donations of materials and safety equipment.

Metish highlighted the diversity of student participation: “We had two girls in this first go-round, and they were super intrigued. One of them was a valedictorian.

“The other one wanted to be in masonry, graduated last year, and is now an apprentice at a masonry company.”

Beyond construction: Training future firefighters

Plans are afoot to construct multiple houses on the training ground, each with a distinct design, to serve as comprehensive training sites for firefighters.

Augdon Greening shared future plans: “The site used for building the house is located on one of the SACFD training grounds, and there are plans to build another house after the completion of this one.”

This unique collaboration goes beyond educational purposes; it also prepares students for careers in firefighting and construction, while providing SACFD with NFPA 1403 compliant buildings for diverse training scenarios.

Metish detailed the program’s breadth, from safety training to controlled demolitions simulating real emergencies.

“If we can just give them a glimpse of what firefighters do, because soon we are going to have a crisis here where we have all these individuals who are going to retire, and we are not able to replace them as we used to, so this program helps,” VanDijk explained.

FSJA Comment

The partnership between the South Adams County Fire Department and Prairie View High School equips students with valuable construction skills and introduces them to the vital work of firefighters, fostering early interest in these crucial careers.

Such programs are instrumental in preparing a skilled workforce to meet future demands, especially in sectors facing potential labor shortages.

The hands-on approach adopted here also demonstrates the effectiveness of experiential learning, providing students with real-world experience that far surpasses traditional classroom instruction.

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