Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Program Attracts, Trains Future Firefighters

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Program Attracts, Trains Future Firefighters

Article excerpt

Many volunteer fire departments in the region are looking for ways to attract new - and keep old - members. And a unique scholarship program at Community College of Allegheny County is helping.

The only program of its kind in the state, FireVEST - which stands for Fire Volunteer, Education Service and Training - is a partnership among CCAC, the Allegheny County Executive and the Allegheny County Fire Academy. Individuals enrolled in the program receive a full scholarship to any associate degree or certificate program at CCAC as well as training at the Allegheny County Fire Academy in exchange for a five-year service commitment as a volunteer firefighter within the county.

The scholarship enabled Matthew Davis of Dormont to obtain his associate degree in fire science administration in 2012.

"It definitely helped me build a foundation to continue my college career and move on with my fire service education," he said.

Mr. Davis, who became chief of the Dormont Volunteer Fire Department in January, went on to earn his bachelor's degree in public administration with a concentration in fire service administration from Point Park University in 2014. He is now working on a master's degree in business administration at the National Fire Academy's executive fire officer program in Emmitsburg, Md.

More than 330 volunteer firefighters have participated in the FireVEST recruitment and retention program, which has been offered since 2009. These scholarship recipients serve in 136 of the county's 187 volunteer fire departments.

Mr. Davis said he encourages his firefighting colleagues to take advantage of FireVEST.

"We've had about a half-dozen people go through," he said.

Chief Gene Marsico of the Aspinwall Volunteer Fire Department also tells his young firefighters to take advantage of FireVEST as well as his own department's special live-in program.

Jake Poznik, a 2017 graduate of Fox Chapel Area High School, is the department's latest junior member to participate. Jake's younger brother Pat Poznik, also a junior firefighter who will be a senior in the fall at Fox Chapel Area, is looking into the program, too.

Pat, a mid-fielder on Fox Chapel Area's lacrosse team, said he enjoys his role in the Aspinwall department. He most likes going on calls and working with other members.

Junior Zachary Goreczny also followed in his brother's footsteps when he joined the department at age 15. "It's a great group of people," said the rising senior, who is a sprinter on Fox Chapel Area's track team.

One of the youngest junior firefighters is Katie Palumbo. She will be a junior at Fox Chapel Area next school year and plays on the volleyball team. She said she will list her volunteer service at the Aspinwall fire company on her resume when she applies to the U.S. Air Force Academy. …

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