Reading, Writing, Firefighting Future Lifesavers Learn the Ropes in High School

Article excerpt

Byline: Leslie Hague

"Mayday, mayday," a firefighter radioed down from the dark, wet metal building. "We're missing one firefighter. Last seen on the second floor."

The students in the Fox Valley Career Center's fire science class started searching.

"Use your tools to search!" called out Sugar Grove Lt. Paul Boecker as the students crawled along the floor. "Use them to widen your search!"

A sharp bell rang out, a part of a firefighter's gear that will make noise when the firefighter doesn't move for a certain amount of time.

"Stop, and listen," Boecker called out. "Where is that sound coming from?"

"The stairs!" came the reply from a student, the sound muffled by his full turnout gear.

They crawled to a classmate sprawled out.

"Is he moveable? Is he alert?" Boecker said. "OK. Let's help him out."

Students moved their "injured" classmate to a window with a ladder propped up against it, and braced him as they carried him down.

"That was an eye-opening experience," Big Rock firefighter John Dinnsen told the students after the drill was over. "That's what you're going to see. When you hear that bell, stop and listen. You need to stay disciplined."

The drill at the Southern Kane County Fire Training Association site in North Aurora this spring was only one part of a new yearlong class offered at the career center.

This is the first year the class has been offered at the center, on Kaneland High School's campus. It draws students from Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles as well as other Western suburbs.

Career center director Larry Imel said he is always looking for new career fields and new classes. With the growth in the area, there will be more of a need for firefighters, he said.

He also had a science teacher at the high school, Gary Baum, who is a firefighter with the Sugar Grove department and was willing to teach the class.

"It was just a natural fit," Imel said.

The first year, not enough students signed up to warrant the class, but 24 students signed up this year.

Area fire departments have overwhelmingly supported the class, Baum said. Donations have included three fire trucks, about 30 sets of turnout gear, and numerous other tools. Firefighters have also donated their time to assist in teaching drills and to be guest speakers in class.

Students completing the class get the training needed for a Firefighter II certificate. …