High School Fire Fighting Program Receives Big Donation

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It's the only program of its kind in our area and now it has a better tool to prepare the next generation of firefighters in the QCA.

On Wednesday, November 11th, 2015, the Fire Fighting Program at the Area Career Center located at United Township High School received a fire truck from the Andalusia Fire Department.

"We had an extra one that we were looking to maybe sell and we talked to the trustees and the other officers and decided that maybe it was good idea to donate it," said Captain Justin Hicks with the Andalusia Fire Department.

Lieutenant Chris Elliott from the Moline Fire Department, who teaches the program along with two firefighters from the Rock Island Fire Department, says the donation will allow juniors and seniors from 10 Illinois-side high schools to experience exactly what it's like to be a firefighter.

"This truck now will allow us to fill the tanks, load the hose, 'respond' with the kids to a part of the field [behind the school]," he explained. "They’ll deploy the lines, we’ll fill the lines with water, pressurize them and they’ll have to advance the hose under pressure."

It's just one part of the program, which is split up into two parts: Fire Fighting I - Fire Science and Fire Fighting II - Emergency Responder. Any junior or senior who attends Alleman, AlWood, Geneseo, Moline, Orion, Riverdale, Rock Island, Rockridge, Sherrard, and United Township High Schools is eligible to enroll in the program, as well as 14 other programs available at the Area Career Center.

"We do just about everything you can do except expose them to real fire," he said. "We want them to be able to go to a volunteer fire department or eventually a career department and have the basic tools that they need with further minimal training."

"We’ve been fortunate enough that we’ve had a handful of people come from [this] program, so it does two things: We get to donate something to the kids, then we maybe get to pull some of those kids to our fire department when they’re old enough and they turn 18," said Capt. Hicks. "It’s kind of difficult to get volunteers and so if we can get somebody with some good basic knowledge, then we can teach the rest."

The Fire Fighting Program runs almost entirely on donations. For example, they have received gear from the Carbon Cliff Fire Department, Davenport Fire Department, Rock Island Arsenal Fire Department, and more including helmets, boots, jackets, air packs, thermal imaging cameras, ladders, and more.

"It's a really good experience," said MaKenzie Berenger, a Senior at Rockridge High School. "We've been waiting for a new truck for awhile now and it's just really exciting."

Lt. Elliott said this is the 9th year for the Fire Fighting Program and they've received truck donations before.

"Carbon Cliff gave us our first truck," he explained. "It's a '67 and it was older and it was getting worn out, but we were thankful for that donation. Then, I think it was 6-7 years ago when East Moline Fire donated a truck. It has a huge ladder on it. That was great, but due to mechanical issues the ladder still works but it does not pump water."

He said this donation of a 1985 Pierce Fire Truck will help students test and train for a life-long - and life-saving - career as a Firefighter, EMT/Paramedic, as well as provide a skill set for several other jobs.

To learn more about the Area Career Center, click here.