Genesee Career Institute launching fire academy for high school students

Graduates will be ready to take state certification tests as firefighters and EMTs right away
Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 6:12 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Fire departments in Mid-Michigan are recruiting heavily because of a struggle with staffing nationwide.

These men and women put their lives on the line every single day, but they get bottom of the barrel benefits and mediocre wages in many departments. That is leading to a declining interest in firefighting.

Fire chiefs across Genesee County are hoping a new program through the Genesee Career Institute will help turn that around. High school students can get the training they need to become a firefighter once they graduate and turn 18.

“This will be an advanced class, so any kid coming out of our EMT or public safety program will then in their second year be able to take the fire academy course,” said Jason Carlisle, assistant principal of the Genesee Career Institute.

The program is the first of its kind in Genesee County to give students the skills and training necessary to become a firefighter. The course will feature plenty of time in the classroom learning about fire science and then applying those skills in real-life scenarios, such as rescuing trapped victims and how to put out different kinds of fires.

“Once they’re done, our intent is to have them prepared fully to take whatever licensing and certification tests hopefully before they leave us here. So that way, their graduation day, the next day they can walk into a fire academy with all the certifications they need to immediately begin working on a truck with other firefighters,” Carlisle said.

Burton Fire Chief Kirk Wilkinson is a liaison between the career center and the Genesee County Fire Chiefs Association. He’s excited to work with students who share the same passion he has.

“The firefighting field is a very exciting field,” Wilkinson said. “If you like a fast-paced environment, it’s multi-faceted. You get to help the public and you end up in some situations where you get an adrenaline rush.”

He said fire chiefs from all over the county are excited for the academy with the hopes they can increase their staffing levels, which have been declining for years. The academy already has 16 students on board with eight slots still available.

“This first year is only going to have one session,” Wilkinson said. “I’m really hoping in the next two to three years, it will expand from one session into two sessions and then maybe into three sessions later on down the road.”

Any students who are interested in the fire academy should get in touch with their school counselor, as spots are filling up quickly.

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