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Wash. technical school holds traditional ceremony for new fire engine

Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center received a fire engine for use in their fire science program


Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center/Facebook

By Cheryl Schweizer
Columbia Basin Herald

MOSES LAKE, Wash. — There’s a tradition in the fire service when a new piece of apparatus is added to the fleet, and students at Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center followed that tradition Wednesday morning.

The city of Moses Lake and the Moses Lake Fire Department are allowing the use of a reserve MLFD fire engine by students in the skills center’s new fire science class. The fire service comes with a lot of traditions, built up over almost two centuries, and Lynn Falconer, the fire science co-instructor, described what that means.

“Since we got a new engine from the city, we washed it, gave it a blessing and then pushed it into the bay where it will stay,” Falconer said.

It’s still a working fire engine, now available for student use.

“Essentially the city retains the asset of having the fire truck, and it’ll be a reserve engine. So if one of our trucks was to go down and we didn’t have a backup, they could come grab this engine,” Falconer said. “This engine is in service, fully ready to go. But instead of just sitting at the city shop collecting dust, we’ll house it down here so that the students can use it.”

Classes at the skills center emphasize education and training that students can use when they graduate, with the tools and equipment they will use in the workplace. Falconer and co-instructor Jaron Shaddix said a working fire engine fits right in with that approach.

“We can practice response because we can put the kids in the truck, drive around the block, have them jump out, take a hydrant, pull hose — we can simulate a full incident,” Shaddix said. “So rather than just teaching them all the parts and pieces and never getting to put it together, we can do a full response from start to finish.”

“Right here at school,” Falconer said. “Instead of having to go somewhere to train, we’re going to be able to do so much more hands-on here.”

The truck comes with a lot of the equipment that would be carried on a truck during an actual call to a fire. Access to that equipment, among other things, reduces the amount of time students spend traveling to a training site, which in turn means they get more instruction, Falconer said.

Fire science is new to the skills center; the first year and the first class are an experiment, one that has worked out well so far. Students from seven school districts are enrolled in fire science.

“We approached the school and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you have a fire science program?’ And they (said), ‘The timing just had never been right, would you like to help us get this going?’ And it’s transpired into having a whole program,” Falconer said. “The first year we just needed to prove it would work, and it’s beyond proved itself.”

Shaddix and Falconer are full-time firefighters with MLFD, and other department firefighters and staff visit classes frequently.

“They’ve provided old gear, tools and equipment, provided the truck, supported us in our endeavor to be working a second job,” Shaddix said. “There’s been a ton of support.”

Other MLFD firefighters have made an effort to get involved in the class, Falconer said.

“The city of Moses Lake has encouraged, supported, donated and they show up for these kids nonstop,” she said. “They’re welcome to come to the firehouse and train. The on-duty crews are actively trying to create the next generation of firefighters. So these students are not just getting Jaron and me, but when they hired us they got a whole fire department.”

Support has come from other fire districts in Grant and Adams counties, who also want to get young people interested in the fire service because it’s a field that’s full of opportunity, the instructors said.

“The whole United States is in a shortage of firefighters. There’s never enough,” Falconer said.

The training students get as a firefighter can help them with careers in emergency medicine, she said, or wildland firefighting, among many other options.

Working with the students has improved the instructors’ skills, and taught them to be better instructors no matter who their students are, they said.

“Any chance we get to train with these kids, we are sharpening our skills as firemen as well,” Falconer said. “So we’re getting better at our craft while teaching the next generation of firefighters.”

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