Berthoud’s next generation of firefighters

By May Soricelli
The Surveyor

Berthoud students go through a scenario during a recent fire science class at Berthoud Fire Protection District building in Berthoud. Many high school students participate in the class offered in conjunction with Aims Community College. May Soricelli / The Surveyor

Berthoud students go through a scenario during a recent fire science class at Berthoud Fire Protection District building in Berthoud. Many high school students participate in the class offered in conjunction with Aims Community College.
May Soricelli / The Surveyor

Thompson School District has collaborated with Aims Community College in order to offer a fire science class to Berthoud and Loveland High School students. For a second year the Berthoud Fire Department has graciously allowed the class to be held at its facility.

“We get to share our passion with the younger generation,” said Berthoud firefighter Sarah Rossi.

Students from Berthoud, Thompson Valley and Mountain View High Schools have participated in this Aims program, which consists of two college-level courses per semester. The book-work aspect of the class is held at Berthoud High School (BHS), while the hands-on learning is facilitated at the Berthoud Fire Station. The classes consist of Principles of Emergency Services, Occupational Safety and Health, Fire Behavior and Combustion, and Fire Prevention. These classes take place three days per week, two days are classroom-based and consist of book-work, tests, quizzes and written assignments on the material learned. However, one day per week is considered “field day,” in which students learn hands-on skills from the Berthoud Fire Department.

“For some of the students this is it, this is what they want to do. For others, they just want to see what it’s like,” said Brian Martens, a retired Windsor and Loveland Fire Chief, who instructs the Aims class.

Seven students are enrolled in this year’s classes and can earn up to 12 college credits toward a fire science degree upon finishing the course. The concurrent enrollment allows students to earn college credits toward a degree while also fulfilling high-school credit requirements. The Thompson School District pays for the credit hours, and the only financial obligation to the students is the text books needed. Aims provide each student with full firefighting gear for the class.

“We developed a partnership with Aims which benefits the community as a whole, but certainly the young people,” said Berthoud Fire Chief Stephen Charles.

Several weeks ago the class conducted a routine fire inspection at Hays Market as part of their field-day training.

“They get a good taste of what it’s like, fulfilling the duties of a firefighter,” said Martens.

During previous field days, at the fire station, drills and orientation to firefighting have been taught. They have also learned the use of SCBA air tanks, equipment training, vehicle entry tools, deploying hose lines, extending and climbing ladders, and paramedic work at the Thompson Valley Emergency Medical Service station in Berthoud. Students recently gained experience from preparing a fire-prevention presentation for Ivy Stockwell Elementary School’s first-grade class.

Most recently, students received hands-on training on the importance of ventilation. Students were taught there are two main reasons to ventilate: for victims or property. To demonstrate the effects of smoke and the need for ventilation, the firemen used a smoke-free smoke machine to fill the back garage of the fire station completely with artificial smoke. After gearing up with suits, masks and air tanks, students were instructed to take the precautionary steps of feeling the door for heat and checking the handle before entering the garage. They were also instructed to avoid breaking glass in windows, as the rush of oxygen will cause an explosion-like reaction from the fire. The students took turns entering the structure, calling for ventilation over their radios, ventilating using an industrial fan, and standing outside the structure to ensure proper ventilation is occurring. A strong need to coordinate was emphasized in order to assure the space is properly pressurized so added oxygen doesn’t further ignite flames.

“Working with the Berthoud Fire Department has been great. They are nice to work with and always have a training session ready to go,” said Martens. “They really go out of their way.”

Charles says they are always looking for ways to enhance fire education for the community. He has received positive feedback from students as well as positive communication from the firefighters involved in the class.

“We have a great group of people here, both civilians and staff. They enjoy imparting knowledge and experience,” said Charles.

According to instructor Martens, the class benefits the students’ future careers, giving them both first-hand experience and familiarity with their local fire department. Martens hopes to recruit the students to complete Aims’ fire science program following high school.

Students like Brian Fishburn of BHS, who has made the decision in the last couple of months that firefighting is the career he wants to pursue.

As far as the class goes, he feels “It’s better than regular school.”

“This is what I want to do,” said Fishburn.

At the age of 18 the students can consider becoming a volunteer firefighter, which may increase their chances of being chosen for a future full-time position.

“They get an edge in a very competitive industry where as many as 300 applicants apply for one job,” said Martens.