2014-08-22 / In the Know

In the Know

Public safety students are fire tested
By B. Michael Thurlow with Steve Willis
Special to the Leader

This is the time of year when many college students are doing last-minute shopping for dorm rooms. But 32 new Southern Maine Community College Public Safety Live-In students are focusing their attention on more pressing business – surviving the 1,000-degree temperatures of live, hands-on, fire training evolutions.

The students – new appointees in many of the 17 local communities who partner with the college on the live-in program – are taking part in a three-week Firefighter 1 and 2 Academy, an intensive basic training program that prepares students for service as first responders in their adopted Greater Portland fire departments.

Scarborough was one of the two founding members of this mutually beneficial program 26 years ago. Since then we annually welcome students into our fire stations, where they work beside our full-time, per-diem and call staffs, gaining invaluable practical experience.

This year we have a total of 15 students spread between five of our neighborhood fire stations.

The live-in student program has proven to be a great feeder program, as several of the more than 200 former graduates of our program are now full-time employees on fire apparatus, in dispatch, staffing ambulances and in leadership roles within our department and many others all across New England.

The stakes are high. More than 100 firefighters die in the line of duty – and tens of thousands are injured – in the U.S. each year doing the types of jobs that these college students are being trained to do safely and effectively.

We expect our live-in students to be fully functional frontline firefighters once they are trained and oriented. Our students drive ambulances and fire trucks, provide emergency medical care, fight fires and perform rescues – whatever the situation requires on a daily basis, providing us with urgently needed additional manpower.

This year’s crop of 32 new live-in students brings the Southern Maine Community College program to a record number of participants: 84 students in 17 host communities from as far south as Alfred to Raymond in the north and Topsham in the east.

Students hail from across Maine and four other New England states. They come for the experiential learning opportunities that the program offers due to our longevity and proven track record of success.

“The student live-in program is a triumph of collaboration among the students, the host communities and the college,” said Steve Willis, live-in coordinator and fire science department chairman at Southern Maine Community College. “The students receive training, earn credentials and gain experience that is invaluable to their academic and career preparation; the communities benefit from well-trained and passionate personnel at relatively low cost, and the college fulfills its mission by supporting area communities and increasing student success rates.”

The students haven’t had much time to enjoy their summer. In June they were interviewed, accepted into the program, and attended an orientation day where they received textbooks, homework assignments to study over the course of the summer, and online quizzes to take in preparation for their three-week trial by fire, handson skills academy that they finished just in time to begin their fall courses in fire science and paramedicine at Southern Maine Community College next week.

I want to welcome the new livein students to our department and congratulate them on their graduation and acceptance into this important and exciting profession.

For more information, contact Willis at swillis@smccme.edu or 207-741- 5808, or Chief Thurlow at mthurl@ ci.scarborough.me.us or 730-4201.

B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarborough. Steve Willis is fire science technology program chairman at Southern Maine Community College.

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