From left to right; DeKalb County Fire-Rescue Capt. Corbit Davis, Firefighter 1 course student Danielle Schie, student Darius Crowder, Rockdale Career Academy Assistant Principal Jill Oldham, Rockdale County Public Schools Career and Technical Education Program coordinator Roger Ivey and Rockdale County Fire Rescue Capt. Adam Roberts stand next to a fire truck that will be used by the course’s trainees. A 1983 model, the training vehicle is a bit older than the ones used by the fire department. (Staff photo: Ryan McKenzie)
CONYERS — Students interested in a career in firefighting will have an opportunity to delve farther into the subject matter with a new course offered at Rockdale Career Academy in the upcoming school year.
In partnership with Georgia Piedmont Technical College and Rockdale County Fire Rescue, the dual enrollment Firefighter 1 course will provide students with the necessary experience to become a firefighter. GPTC instructors will teach the course, and staff from RCFR and other fire departments will assist them in training, bringing their knowledge and background skills to the class.
“Rockdale County Fire Rescue is excited to assist with the field training in the dual enrollment partnership between RCA and Georgia Piedmont Technical College,” RCFR Fire Chief Dan Morgan said in a released statement.
The course currently has seven students enrolled, most of whom are seeking careers in the firefighting field, according to RCA Assistant Principal Jill Oldham. Rising Salem High senior Darius Crowder has enrolled in the course, pursuing a life-long dream and following in family footsteps.
“I’ve been wanting to be a firefighter since I was about 5 years old,” said Crowder. “My parents were firefighters, so that’s a really big motivation. I have a couple of cousins and uncles who work for the same fire department.”
Students enrolled in the course receive training that prepares them for dealing with the everyday issues and tasks that firefighters face. From wearing full, complete gear that certified firefighters wear to exploring the aspects of operating a fire truck, students get an in-depth understanding of what a career in fire safety entails. A darkened, lightless training maze, meant to simulate small areas of homes that firefighters often have to access, such as attics and crawlspaces, is also incorporated into the course.
“What this simulates is different confined spaces that a firefighter may come across,” said RCFR Captain Adam Roberts in regard to the training structure. “In either A: a structural collapse, or B: searching for a victim. This is just a way for them to use their other senses and their sight, cause, bear in mind, it’s totally dark in here, they’re blacked out, their mask gets all fogged up, so you want them to be able to listen and feel — start trying to feel things that feel familiar and find a way out or find the victim.”
Trainees must make their way through the maze, often on their hands and knees in several areas, while carrying the weight of their gear and rationing their breathing at the same time.
In addition to receiving both high school and college credit, students will be prepared to take the state certification exam upon graduating from the course and reaching 18 years of age. After completing the course and exam, RCA graduates will be prepared to be employed as a firefighter. Applicants must have the minimum required SAT and ACT scores, or will have to take the COMPASS test and receive the minimum required scores.