Education Matters: Local firefighter program is training new recruits

Education

FRESNO, California (KSEE) – As fire agencies state-wide gear up for what is expected to be another tough fire season, they are also looking to hire hundreds of additional wildland firefighters.

The Valley Regional Occupational Program is training local students to fill those positions. 22-year-old Candy Delfin went through the same wildland fire fighting program, first in high school and then at Reedley College. She now volunteers her time to help train students.

“I was in their shoes,” said Delfin. “I was in this line. People were teaching me now I come back and teach them so they know they have an opportunity.”

Wildland firefighting is offered through the Valley Regional Occupational Program and is designed to train students who want to work for the U.S. Forest Service or Cal Fire as firefighters.

“Most students start as a junior in our urban-rural firefighting class, that’s a class that trains them to be structure firefighting like a city firefighter urban firefighters,” said Superintendent Fabrizio Lofaro. “And then they roll over as seniors into this program in the wildland firefighting.”

It is a hands-on program: students spending about 60% of their class time outdoors working in crews – and working on Saturdays.

“And today we’re actually doing hose line deployment where they would be on a fire’s edge, attacking a fire directly and they are putting hose lays and they are learning how to work in conjunction as a team to make sure that’s accomplished effectively and efficiently,” said instructor Tim Garrison.

This year there are 42 students from 10 different valley high schools in the program.

Certificates and dual enrollment is offered through Reedley College. Students can leave high school with seven college credits.

Working as seasonal firefighters, many continue their education attending the Reedley College Fire Academy where they can earn an associate’s degree.

The Valley ROP Wildland Firefighting Program has been in operation for around 15 years.

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