By Rachel Lyons / Staff Writer
In 2018, thousands of firefighters found themselves fighting a fire that would ultimately destroy the town of Paradise, California. These firefighters have one common ground to stand on, in addition the brotherhood that they call their fire family.
They all have some form of training. Whether this type of training comes from a department during the firefighter’s employment, or through a degree in fire science. Most firefighters find that having a degree in fire science (or a similar area) find that they are able to more easily progress in the field.
This is where Hutchinson Community College’s Fire Science program comes into view, with nationwide focus on careers, and any further education necessary for a student’s chosen career, a day to explore the Fire Science Program, some of what they can expect to do during their time in the program. On Wednesday, HutchCC hosted roughly 100 of these students at the 20th Annual Fire Science Field Day.
Bobby White, HutchCC Fire Science Coordinator, offered a description of the day, stating that it would be a sampler of activities within the degree program. These activities included a search-and-rescue simulation, which according to fire science student Ian Frost involved suiting up in bunker gear.
Fellow fire science students Issac James and Bo Thurman expanded the list of activities available to include a vehicle extraction using the jaws of life.
There was also cribbing – a technique to stabilize cars, a demonstration of how an airbag can be used to lift heavy vehicles such as a fire truck, pushing foam, and using fire hoses to fight a simulated dumpster fire.
Students also had the opportunity to hear from one of the many retired firefighters within the program, such as 36-year Forest Service Veteran Jamie Copple. Copple teaches one of the more popular elective classes, all about chainsaws, including safety and tearing down the saw, and concluding with five classes spent on nearby property using chainsaws to clear brush.
Copple shared with students that it is possible to make upwards of $30,000 in one summer working with a traveling crew, which could be ideal for students, and wild-land firefighting can serve as a resume builder for those who wish to have a career in structural firefighting. After a discussion about the basics of how fires are fought, Copple shared that all fighting large fires require good management, on the part of the firefighters who are actively engaged in fighting the fire, and those who are working on other aspects.