New firefighting class fires up students

Anika Mereddy, Assistant News Editor

The Chantilly Academy has introduced a new course for students who are interested in becoming firefighters. The year-long elective class focuses on skill development and teaches students how to safely perform the duties of a firefighter.

The course prepares students for the professional recruit school through Fairfax County Fire and Rescue. However, smaller fire departments may accept students who have taken the course, without requiring a professional recruit school.

This year, 13 FCPS juniors and seniors are enrolled in the class.

Although the firefighting course is part of Chantilly Academy, it takes place at the Fairfax County training academy. Students who have passed the physical exam will attend the firefighting course on their B days at the Fairfax fire academy.

Students attend the firefighting course on their B days at the Fairfax County Fire Academy, taught by a VDFP (Virginia Department of Fire Programs) qualified instructor. Because of the number of credits and hours required to educate, train, practice, and certify the students, they spend the full day at the fire academy. On A days, students take their other required coursework at their base school to graduate.

However, only seniors may take the course next year. Juniors will have to attend the Fire and Emergency Medical Sciences class in order to earn their National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians certification and consequently enroll in the firefighting course at the Fairfax County training academy in their senior year.

“A lot of the students that we have in the class right now do have aspiration to go into the fire department, and I think that anyone who has an inch of interest in the fire service, it is an excellent class to take,” said Natalie Potell, lead Instructor/ program manager of the firefighting class.

To be admitted into the firefighting program, students must complete a basic physical exam. In the future, interested students may be required to take a physical endurance test additionally to ensure they can meet the constant physical stress of firefighting.

Participants learn about CPR, first aid, search and rescue, and forcible entry. Other than learning the practical skills of being a firefighter, students also read through their textbook and learn about fire history and how to properly use their tools.

Students will practice these skills until their firefighting certification exams in the spring.

Enrolled participants will take three extensive exams (firefighter one, firefighter two and hazmat operations) to gain their full certification.  

“This new class [is similar] to a class that actual firefighters have to go through to become a fireman,” Chantilly Alumnus and Sterling Volunteer Fire Company recruit Collin Gould said. “It [will allow students] to come out ahead of any other recruits joining the fire department because they have training.”

By taking the firefighting course, students become more prepared and learn what a career in may have in store for them.

Currently, there are no Chantilly students enrolled in the Academy. However, the program has recently been receiving much interest and publicity. The class was recently featured on NBC Washington, showing the students training and doing practice drills.

Many students enrolled in the class plan on pursuing a firefighting career.

“Other than the certifications, the course teaches you a lot about integrity and respect, and pushing yourself to places where you didn’t think you could [reach], because the class is very hard, physically and mentally.” said Potell, “It’s the kinda thing that will quite literally change your life and make you a different person, a more stronger and better person.”