Mount Pisgah Academy Boys Earn Credits for Firemanship
ENGLISH, math and history mixed with knots, evolutions and hydraulics provide an unusual curriculum for the 10 high school students who, with four faculty members, make up the campus fire department of Mt. Pisgah Academy in Candler, N. C. Legally constituted as a regular fire department, the Mt. Pisgah group is supported by county funds although it has no fire district of its own. In addition to responding to alarms on campus, it responds to all alarms received in the Enka Fire Destrict in which the school is located, as well as to alarms in Buncombe County under a mutual aid plan.
The student firemen, who range in age from 16 to 18 years, are recruited from the junior and senior classes. To be eligible a boy must have at least an average I.Q., good character, a “C” in all subjects and be in top physical condition. Once accepted for the department, he is enrolled in a firemanship course that calls for five hours a week of classwork and drill, plus responding to alarms and maintaining the two pieces of apparatus that are housed at the school. For this he receives one credit per year toward his high school diploma—a pioneering step taken by the North Carolina State Education Department.
Principal Edward F. Reifsnyder, who also doubles as fire chief, organized the department and the program which he hopes will orient the young men to the fire service on graduation, and eventually lead the way to acceptance of 18-year-olds for full-duty status in all departments.
Photos by L. H. Britton. California Conference Seventh-Doy Adventuts
The son of a fireman, Chief Reifsnyder can recall visiting the fire station at every opportunity when his dad was on duty. In 1941 he became a member of the Takoma Park, Md., department and served for 12 years, two of them as a paid member. When he left the fire service to enter the field of education he held the rank of captain.
Chief Reifsnyder’s first teaching assignment was at Mt. Pisgah, the school to which he was later to return as principal. He arrived there in a somewhat unorthodox fashion with a fully equipped fire truck that had been given to him by volunteer departments in the Takoma Park area. And it was only natural that he organize a fire department with the boys in school. Later he taught in two other schools and was then invited to return to Mt. Pisgah as principal. It was this appointment that gave him the opportunity to institute the high school course in firemanship which he believes is the first of its kind.
Standard manuals employed
The texts used are the Oklahoma Red Books, Maryland University Basic Course and the manuals from the North Carolina Insurance Department. Required reading takes in firemanic magazines including FIRE ENGINEERING. Comprehensive written and oral tests are given regularly along with weekly drills. On the practical side, the young fire fighters get regular practice in “live” drills held in an abandoned house on campus that is touched off for the purpose, plus the real experience picked up in responding with the Enka Fire Department.
Finances serious problem
Like most fire departments, Mt. Pisgah suffers from a lack of funds. Chief Reifsnyder would like to expand his department, but his only source of income is $100 per month received from the county and he must budget carefully. From this amount he is still making payments on the last rig purchased which necessitated the building of an addition on the firehouse. Presently the Mt. Pisgah department operates two pieces of equipment: a 1953 Seagrave 750-gpm pumper and a 1942 International Harvester truck equipped with an Oberdorfer booster pump and 300-gallon water tank.
“I believe in this program of training high school students for the fire service,” the Chief told FIRE ENGINEERING. “We receive these boys at a time when they are interested in the fire service and not just interested in making a living from the service. I hope to see the day arrive when the training of men for the fire service will begin in the high school years or soon thereafter. A good 18-year-old boy makes a good fireman.”