17 Receive Fire Tech Degrees
Milwaukee Professional Fire Fighters Association photo, J. S. Haight
In commencement exercises June 9, the Milwaukee Technical College awarded its first associate degrees in applied science, fire technology, to 17 fire fighters. This was also a “first” for the State of Wisconsin. Over 100 more students from several Milwaukee area fire departments are now enrolled.
Among the graduates was a battalion chief, two captains, six lieutenants, and seven fire fighters from the Milwaukee Fire Department, and a lieutenant from surburban Wauwatosa.
Launched in 1964 by an advisory committee representing state and county fire chiefs, local government, the MFD Uniformed Fire Officers Association, Fire Fighters Local 215, and the State Board of VocationalTechnical Training, the 68-unit course has proven quite popular.
Say MFD Battalion Chief Bob Heindl, instrumental in getting things started five years ago, “The program has three major emphases. First is general education, rich in the social sciences such as psychology and economics. Second is fire technology itself. Backing this up is the third specialtyscience, including chemistry, hydraulics, fluid power, and so on.”
Typically, a student attends classes two mornings weekly. The course was originally intended to take five years of part-time work. However, credits in fire department organization and tactics were waived for students having more than three years’ experience as professional fire fighters, enabling them to graduate a year earlier. A fulltime student can finish in two years.
There are industrial fire protection personnel now in school, too, as well as some high school graduates aiming at a fire service career. Heindl hopes for eventual Milwaukee Fire-Police Commission acceptance of such a college degree as partial qualification for appointment to the fire department.
On June 3, Fire Fighters Local 215 sponsored buffet dinner honoring the graduates. Speaking to a hundred guests from education, state and local government, and the fire service, Dr. George Parkinson, college director emeritus, said that “theoretical learning is not enough to insure advancement, but to become a competent, well-trained fire officer today requires additional education.”
As Heindl put it, “What we will get from this program is a better educated fireman who does not need to follow blindly all the old ways of doing things, but who can see new solutions to fire problems”.
Added Dr. William Ramsey, present director of the college, “There’s nothing magic about a two-year curriculum. Education never stops. We may eventually need a three-year or fiveyear program. This is a wide-open field for the technical colleges of this country.”
Following Milwaukee’s lead, the Racine, (Wis.), Technical Institute has begun a similar 70-unit course for part-time completion in six years. More than 80 students are enrolled, and an additional 21 will start fulltime work in September.