By JEROD CLAPP
NEW ALBANY —
Flames shot up with a plume of smoke going high into the air. Fully dressed in protective gear, the firefighters rushed in and extinguished it handily.
After it was over, they grabbed their backpacks and got ready to head back to their high schools.
Students at the Prosser Career Education Center participated in an exercise for the school’s new fire rescue course.
Kent Monohan, the instructor, has worked with the St. Matthews Fire Protection District in Louisville for 27 years. He said as part of Prosser’s public safety career cluster, the fire rescue program gives students a taste of what firefighters deal with daily.
“It’s truly to get them ready for a career as a firefighter,” Monohan said. “After they finish two years here, they’ll have all the basic requirements most fire departments either like to see or require.”
The fire rescue course was just added this fall. The career cluster also includes criminal justice.
Monohan said the training for the fire and rescue courses is monitored by a group of professionals in the field to make sure the curriculum is up-to-date with what firefighters learn.
In the first year, students get training in CPR, fire control and other facets of fire safety. But Monohan said after students are finished with their second year, they become certified emergency medical technicians and earn Indiana firefighter certification.
Todd Caufield, owner of Kron’s Fire Protection Services, supervised the fire extinguishing exercise. He said the hands-on experience students get could serve them well should they decide to seriously pursue a career in firefighting.
“I think Kent’s an excellent instructor and fireman,” Caufield said. “I think he’ll teach these young adults well.”
Calvin Coomer, a captain with the New Albany Fire Department, said giving high school juniors and seniors a chance to see what firefighting is like can help them decide if it’s the right job for them or not.
“If they’re planning on becoming professional firefighters down the road, it gives them some idea of what the fire profession involves and whether they want to be involved or not,” Coomer said. “There’s a lot more to firefighting than just putting out fires, there’s a lot of EMS work involved, too.”
Josh Murphy, a junior at New Washington High School, participated in the exercise. He said he wants to continue a family legacy with firefighting.
“My dad would tell me stories about him basically being a hero, and I just wanted an opportunity to help save people’s lives and be a good person,” Murphy said.
Ethan Humphries, a junior at South Central Junior-Senior High School in Harrison County, said while he doesn’t have the family connection to firefighting, he’s always been interested in it.
“I have no background in firefighting, but I’m making an A in this class,” Humphries said. “I’ve always wanted to do something to help people and save lives. You get to help people on their worst day.”
Coomer said the program is a good primer for students who want to continue their education in that field.
“It gives them a working knowledge and they’ll learn what the physical challenges are,” Coomer said. “They’ll also learn what they need to do down the road to prepare for firefighter training.”