High School Fire Science Course
The formative years of high school and college students are most important, yet fire service contact with these youths is generally limited to a 40-minute presentation or a career as a fire fighter.
The Orange, Calif., Fire Department has a better idea–a fire science program designed for 11th and 12th grade students.
As far as is known, this is the first program of its type in the nation. Soon after the idea germinated, the program was instituted in the three local high schools in September 1972. Several other school districts have since begun programs of their own patterned after ours.
Coordinated through the federally funded regional occupational program, the class is designed to provide an overview of all fire service activities and the background knowledge needed to pass a fire department entrance examination. The class is open to girls as well as boys. The textbooks are “Introduction to Fire Science” published by Glencoe Press, and the California State Manuals on “Salvage Operations,” “Fire Problems in HighRise Buildings” and “Use of Fire Apparatus and Equipment.”
Contents of course
Patterned after fire department recruit schools, the program devotes 10 hours a week to classroom and drillground work. There are weekly quizzes and midterm and final examinations, including manipulative performance tests. At various times during the year, each student is given a total of four civil service-type written and oral examinations as preparation for any fire department entrance examination.
By the time he graduates at the end of the school year, each student will have an advanced first aid card and a background of hose, ladders, ropes, knots, apparatus, equipment, hazardous materials, tactics, fire chemistry, and many other subjects too numerous to list.
Instructors are accredited by the California Bureau of Industrial Education, California Fire Training Program. All costs, including instructors, coordinator, secretarial time, uniforms, turnout clothing, books, and all other printed materials, are paid by the regional occupational program.
In April 1974, six class members entered the California Vocational and Industrial Clubs of America, State Olympics Skills competition in Los Angeles. They were rated on their manipulative performance and response to oral questions regarding various tools and equipment carried on fire apparatus.
The Orange students swept their division, capturing gold, silver, and bronze medals. Winners of the contest were Dan Graupensperger, first; Doug Maloney, second; Jerry Earwood, third.
Graduates in fire service
Several graduates of the first class (1972-73) have already entered the fire service. One is working in by the California Division of Forestry, one is a full-time fireman, and four are cadet firemen in our department.
There are a few drawbacks, but the many benefits far outweigh them. If hired following graduation (our minimum age is 18), they need little training, are a known quantity, and can begin a career in the fire service with no qualms.
Chief Floyd Higgins of the Orange Fire Department approved of the program from its conception and is still our most ardent advocate.
Higgins stated, “The regional occupational high school fire science program fulfills an obligation we have to the youth in our community by building character in young people who will find their way into the mainstream of life. They will know whether they want to be firemen. The program not only benefits the students, but also the department.