Locally, a first step would be to enroll in NPC’s Fire Training Academy, based at the Jake Flake Emergency Services Northeastern Arizona Training Center in Taylor. NPC’s program has earned Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education recognition and graduates are certified by the National Fire Academy, meaning credentials meet or exceed national standards. The NPC academy accepts both adults and NAVIT high school students for day and evening classes. Additional Fire Science classes are offered in other communities, based on local needs.
NPC’s Associate of Applied Science degree is built upon the 18 credits earned
for a Certificate of Proficiency, plus 19 additional Fire Science credits, 18 general education credits and nine credits of general electives. Students have the option to complete individual courses in Wildland Firefighter, Hazardous Materials, Rope Rescue, Confined Space and Firefighter I & II. Most local agencies require new hires to have at least a Certificate of Proficiency, with a desire to complete an associate or higher degree.
“By completing the 32- to 40-hour Wildland Firefighter course you qualify as a Firefighter II – Beginning Wildland,” explains Bill Solomon, NPC Fire Science instructor and a captain with Taylor Fire Department. The course covers the basic skills and knowledge required to meet this qualification, including the use of hand and power tools, safety and National Incident Management System (NIMS), the common command structure and language used throughout America’s fire service.
“Then you need to find a potential employer – a private firm or government agency – that will administer the Pack Test to see if you are physically fit for
Red Card certification,” Solomon continues. For the Pack Test, you are required to walk three miles in 45 minutes carrying a 45-pound vest. “If you pass, then the employer notifies the agency that issues the Red Card required to work on a wildland fire.” This card must be renewed annually through your sponsoring agency.
In Arizona, volunteer and paid professional structural firefighters are required to have Firefighter I & II certification. This certification is totally separate from the Red Card needed by wildland fire-fighters. A major component of NPC’s Fire Science program, the 10-credit course is based on standards of the National Fire Protection Association and Arizona Center for Fire Service Excellence. At NPC, most students co-enroll in the Hazardous Materials course to satisfy that state training requirement.
Most local fire agencies also require new firefighters to be at least 18 years old, have EMT certification and a good driving record. Some require a criminal background check and routine drug tests.
“Smaller districts have a need for people with education and training,” notes Chief Dave Niehuis with the Vernon Fire District. “When the time comes to hire more people, I hope several from the NPC program apply. Like Clay [Wallace], I can expect them to bring energy and a good education to our district. In return, we give them experience that only real emergencies can give. Our small market firefighters also have to do more with fewer resources, so they can learn quickly. This becomes a win-win situation for the districts and the new recruits,” continues Niehuis. “The program at NPC is a huge asset to all the fire agencies across the White Mountains.”
“Education, training and attitude are the three major components of the NPC academy, coupled with developing a culture of safety conscientiousness,” continues Solomon. Various props, including a roof simulator, flash chamber and burn tower, provide hands-on training opportunities. But technology is also playing a growing role.
NPC is utilizing a computerized “live” burn simulator. Connected to a smoke generator, instructors program the simulator to create three major types of fire: wood and paper, electrical, and oil and grease. “About the only thing missing is the heat factor, and we’re working on that,” chuckles Solomon. “We had a veteran officer from one of the local departments use the simulator, and he thought it was very realistic. The simulator allows multiple evolutions of the same conditions, while a live burn restricts the training opportunity. We need the test burn to continue, so students can’t put it completely out, like they can in the simulator.”
If you want to pursue a meaningful career where you are willing to risk your
life to save the lives of others, then this program may be for you. NPC will provide you with expert, cutting-edge training that will allow you to find meaningful and rewarding employment while serving others.