The students were divided into groups of three to help put out the controlled car fires. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)
The students were divided into groups of three to help put out the controlled car fires. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Archived Story

County teenagers learn fire training

Published 8:00am Friday, June 20, 2014

With two of her family members serving as firefighters back home, Marcellus-resident Lacie Scoggin has heard plenty of stories about firefighting since she was little.

It was only after four years of hands-on instruction from Dowagiac fire crews that recent high school graduate learned just how difficult the job actually is, though.

“They’re not just out there spraying water everywhere,” Scoggin said. “They’re giving up a lot to do this.”

Scoggin was one of 15 teenagers from Marcellus, Edwardsburg, Dowagiac and Cassopolis participating in this week’s fire training camp, an educational course designed to give area high school students an introduction to firefighting. A partnership between South Western Michigan College’s Educational Talent Search and Cass County fire departments, the week-long program teaches firefighting history, equipment handling, search and rescue, investigation and other aspects, taught by professionals in the field.

“It’s a way for kids who think they might one day become firefighters to get their feet wet,” said ETS Director Amy Anderson. “When they finish, they have a new appreciation for fire departments and what they do.”

On the Thursday, the students used the skills they had learned up to that point to extinguish three controlled car fires in an old lot off Middle Crossing Road. After suiting up in fire jackets, oxygen masks and helmets, the teens were divided into teams of three to take on each car, using an engine water hose to quell the flames.

“The fire was super hot,” Scoggin said, recalling her experience that morning. “Doing something like that makes you realize what firefighters go through on a daily basis.”

Later in the afternoon, the teens got to experience another major aspect of a firefighter’s daily routine: cleaning trucks, washing down hoses, cooking dinner and other regular chores that take place inside the firehouse.

“They do everything but go on calls,” said Doug Michels, a firefighter with the Dowagiac Fire Department who helps teach participants in the program.

On Friday, the group will take trip to Chicago, where they will visit the Chicago Training Academy, as well as tour the city’s Fire Station 51, where the TV program “Chicago Fire” is filmed.

This is the sixth year that Michaels has led instruction for the fire academy, with around five others at the station lending a hand each year, he said. The department and the college try to shake up the activities every year. Last year, for example, they took the teenagers out on a fireboat at the conclusion of the week.

“The kids get really into it,” he said. “They have fun all week.”

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