By Fran Odyniec
They suited up, and were going in.
Under the supervision of eight experienced instructors, 30 high school seniors in the firefighter and emergency medical curriculum at Tolles Career and Technical Center made sure that their air packs and regulators were working as they prepared to enter the darkness and heat of a burn chamber.
“It was their last burn,” said Firefighter R.C. Fellows, lead fire instructor, who has been teaching at Tolles for the last eight years. “It was a scenario that covered what they learned from their first day to their last day to complete the objectives set forth by the State of Ohio’s Division of Emergency Services.”
Going into the “burn cans,” as Fellows called the two chambers, in three-person crews, the students had to demonstrate proficiency with: hose movement; nozzle control; search and rescue; and ventilation.
Once inside one of the two burn cans, students also had to deal with heavy smoke and temperatures that rose to 1,000 degrees at the point of the fire.
“We were simulating a house on fire,” Fellows continued, “and how they would put out the fire while searching for a victim.”
The “victim” in this scenario was a mannequin.
“This is probably one of the toughest programs at Tolles,” Fellows said, “both physically and academically.”
He pointed out that the students, under supervision, of course, are put right in the line of fire. They will spend between 16 and 20 hours in a “can,” and learn how to handle ladders and drag hose among other responsibilities.
However, before a student can take the state qualifying test for firefighter/EMT-Basic, the student must demonstrate that he or she can maintain a testing proficiency of at least 75 percent.
In the EMT-Basic portion of the curriculum, students learn the basics of emergency medical procedures including patient assessment, bandaging, and splinting among others.
A 20-year veteran of the fire service as well as a firefighter with the Pleasant Valley Joint Fire District, Fellows believes that students are drawn to the firefighting curriculum for a number of reasons.
“A lot of it is a sense of adventure,” he said. “But there is also a sense of wanting to help people. Students are very passionate about helping people and want to learn the things to do that.”
Since the firefighter and emergency medical technician curriculum began at Tolles in 2004, Fellows reports that about 125 high school seniors have graduated from the program.
In this senior class are four students who hope to carry on the tradition of the fire service that has become strongly embedded in their families.
Nathan Moore’s father Gary is a lieutenant in Clinton; Chris Catts’ father Brian is a firefighter in Columbus; Joe Turvy’s father Rob is also a firefighter in Columbus and previously ran with Central Townships Joint Fire District (CTJFD) and his grandfather Bob was a firefighter with CTJFD; and Derek Johnson’s father is a firefighter with the Pleasant Valley Joint Fire District.
According to CTJFD Chief Brian Bennington, Joe Turvy has recently been hired by the district, thus extending the Turvy tradition at the district to three generations.