RUMFORD — High school students taking Region 9's debut Fire Science I course this fall looked skyward Friday afternoon at the aerial ladder they'd just climbed.
Rumford firefighter Jeff Harren extended it to 100 feet and positioned it straight up, eliciting several wows from the teens who'd trained on it earlier when it was 80 feet out at a 45-degree angle.
Almost immediately Cody Dux, 16, a junior firefighter with the Bethel Fire Department, asked instructor Craig Wade if he could climb it. A few other students asked to try it, too.
However, Wade, a Dixfield Fire Company firefighter, said they didn't have the time, because school buses would soon arrive for them at the Region 9 School of Applied Technology in Mexico.
Besides, he said, climbing an aerial ladder 100 feet straight up isn't a requirement for certification to become a firefighter.
That's what Wade's new fire science course is all about — learning the fundamentals of firefighting.
“It's a brand new program started this year to get it going and get some students interested and certified in the fire service,” Wade said.
He said students taking the course will get their Jones and Bartlett Firefighting I and II certification if they choose to take the state and practical written end test.
“Basically, there's 42 states in the U.S. that will accept it,” he said.
On Friday morning, the students toured the Rumford fire station, where Wade said they'd be spending a lot of class time.
Aerial ladder training was a first for some of the students. But others, who are junior firefighters with fire departments in Western Maine, have already been up on aerial ladders.
“It's fun, but when you get to the top, it gets really shaky,” Allie Kelly, 15, of Telstar Regional High School said.
Wade said Friday's ladder training focused more on ladder competency and confidence building.
Although Wade said they try to train in the best conditions, as the course continues, students will train in deteriorating conditions like smoke and heat.
“It's definitely a different experience," Wade said of being on an aerial ladder above a raging structure fire. "But also at the same time, it gives you something else other than the height and length of the ladder to concentrate on.”
“The scope of this course is getting them through everything from basic vehicle extrication and fire extinguishers, right up to an interior structural attack firefighter.”
Additionally, students will go through basic CPR, first-aid and automatic external defibrillator certification. However, Wade said they'll have to pursue getting an actual Maine emergency medical technician license on their own.
Basically, students in any school in RSU 10 and SAD 44's Telstar High School can take the Region 9 course.
Students enrolled in the course this year range from freshmen to seniors. They are: 15-year-olds Allie Kelly, Mackenzie Blake, Marty Letourneau, and Dylan Helms, and Cody Dux, 16, all of Telstar Regional High School in Bethel; Ian Fortin, 17, of Dirigo High School in Dixfield, and Nicholas Blodgett, 17, who is home-schooled.
Kelly, Dux and Fortin said Friday that they're taking the course to get their Firefighting I and II certification.
The fire science class is completely funded through Region 9.
“We also receive a lot of support from area fire departments as far as apparatus, equipment and manpower time when we do some of these bigger events,” Wade said.
Additional funding comes from the Carl A. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 1998 grant program.
“We'd like to gear (the course) more toward a junior-senior — preferably a junior — because we will be offering a second year next year where they can come back for some advance training,” Wade said.