Plaza Vaquero filled with firefighters and red and yellow fire engines on May 19 as students stopped by and asked what was happening.
They had gathered for the Fire Academy Open House, an event that gave students hands-on demonstrations of firefighting gear, and that highlighted the college’s Fire Academy program, a one-year training curriculum that prepares students to become firefighters.
The program is a partnership between GCC, the Glendale Fire Department, and the Verdugo Fire Academy, accredited by the office of the state fire marshal. It meets the training requirements for certification as Firefighter I in the state of California.
Upon completing 920 hours of combined classroom lectures and extensive hands-on instruction at the fire department training grounds, students earn an associate’s degree in fire technology. Courses are taught by instructors from various fire departments, such as LA City, Glendale, Vernon, Santa Monica, and San Diego, among others.
“It’s a very rigorous program,” said Cadet Tim Walker, a five-month trainee who wants to give back to the community by becoming a firefighter. “It takes up your weekend. You’re making a year-long sacrifice. There’s a lot I’m giving up to be at this academy . but it’s worth every bit of it.”
Walker said he chose the Verdugo Fire Academy because it’s the only one in California that offers the most hours of training and certifications, compared to the 300 hours others offer.
Newly appointed Glendale Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, who replaced interim fire chief Don Biggs, received his associate in science degree in fire science from Glendale in 1994, before the academy program began. He then earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration.
Out of his 23 years as a firefighter, he has served 18 years in the Glendale Fire Department. He said that fire departments
are always hiring.
“If you really stay after it and keep sharpening your tools and investing in yourself, then in the end you’re going to be successful,” Scoggins said.
Classes meet from 6 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The estimated current cost of the program is as follows: $20 per unit for 32 units; $1,000 lab fee; and $2,500 for uniform and equipment.
After the one-year program, students move onto a one-year volunteer program where they work four 24-hour shifts in a month at a Fire Department of their choosing anywhere in California.
Addison Arce, 20, will join the academy next January or in 2010.
“I’ve always wanted to help people and I’ve always thought it’s a cool job,” said Arce who has wanted to be a firefighter since age 4. “I’m excited.”
He’s been preparing for the program by visiting local fire departments, talking with the firefighters, and learning from their experiences; running, exercising, and eating healthy; and taking EMT courses.
The first Thursday of each month, at 7 p.m. on campus, there is a free information and career planning workshop for those interested in a career in fire service and earning a degree. Academy staff, instructors, cadets, and college counselors help students with questions.
Nov. 1 is the deadline to apply for the Fire Academy beginning in January 2009. A maximum of 60 applicants are accepted.
“If you’re interested, start acting now,” said Walker. “If you’re not an EMT, get an EMT certification; take fire science courses; read about it; visit local fire stations. There is always something you can do. Just be proactive.”
For more information, visit www.glendale.edu/fire or call Lydia Basmajian at (818) 240-1000, ext. 5918.