Students at Devine High School will now have the unprecedented opportunity to graduate with the skills and certifications they need to be a firefighter and EMT, and serve their community their senior year as well.
“When students graduate this class, they will be ready to enter the workforce,” said Chief Greg Atkinson, who announced the new program in conjunction with the local school board and superintendent last month.
“At the conclusion of this high school academy, if students have done both years, they will be certified firefighters through the State Firefighters and Fire Marshals Association (SFFMA). They will also be prepared to take the national registry test for Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and the state’s Texas Commission on Fire Protection exam to become a paid firefighter in Texas.”
“They will also have real world experience because as seniors they will be able to make runs with DVFD,” Chief Atkinson said.
How long is the course?
“It’s a two year course for the vocational high school portion, however at the end of just one year the students will be ready to be EMT’s. So year 1, the seniors may not be fully ready to take the TCFP exam but they can still come out EMT ready,” Chief said.
What certifications will students get?
“In the vocational high school academy the students will become certified in a plethora of areas over two years; extrication, rope rescue, fire suppression, rescue apprentice, hazardous materials awareness and Operations, Traffic incident management, National Incident Management Systems, and so much more. These certifications will translate into other fields if a student decides the fire industry is not for them,” Chief said.
Who else can take classes at Devine VFD?
“We will offer CPR classes for general public, EMT classes for the general public, Firefighter certification classes for other departments, high school vocational training for students who want to graduate as firefighters and/or EMT’s, and even infant and baby care classes for new parents.
The academy will host these classes at night,” Chief said.
Tell us a little about how Devine’s new Academy came about…
“This came about from years of ground work laid by the people who came before me in this position,” Chief Atkinson said. “Guys like Patrick DuBose, Michael Walker, Robert Scott, Richard Hitchcock and the teams that worked with them. When I was elected Chief by the association, I put a challenge to my team….The number one question I always want us to ask is “How does this benefit the community?”
“We are here to serve, so regardless if it’s buying a piece of machinery or presenting legislation to our government officials, our first question needs to be “How does this benefit the community?” I was lucky enough in my early years of firefighting, 20 years ago, to be a part of a great fire department in Bloomington, Indiana. That department has always been on the front edge of education in the fire community. So with that knowledge, and answering the question “How can we benefit the community?” we decided that an academy would be a great way to teach the public how to prevent and even respond to their own emergencies until help could arrive.
“In a district that covers 155 square miles, there are parts that take DVFD and Allegiance 20 min to get to. In an emergency every second counts. So that’s where it started.
Then we said, well, what if we could raise training in the area for all the other volunteer fire departments? That benefits all of our communities because these departments often respond with us on several scenes.”
“Like most volunteer departments, these firefighters cannot take off weeks or months at a time from their day jobs to go get certifications at state academies, or have the resources to train and certify the way they would like to at home. If the training was closer and could be done at night, then we could raise the bar of volunteers across the county.
Then that led to the question, “Can we get students certified coming out of high school to save them from student loan debts, but yet give them a career they could go into immediately after graduation and make a living?” So we got on the phone with SFFMA, Congressman Tony Gonzales, Mayor Thompson, and of course Superintendent Grandjean. We started talking to other academies like that in Killeen that already work with high school students.
We started gathering data about job openings in the fire field and EMS service (Covid gave both of these industries a hit and created several entry job openings). We started building committees and plans, and that brings us to the development of the full academy.”
“Our goal is to become the emergency medical and fire response education center for all of Medina County. This is a historical mark, as there is no other completely volunteer fire department running an academy open to the public in the United States. We are truly excited and blessed to have such competent, educated, and caring people in our first responders who were fired up about making this a reality,” Chief Atkinson adds.
You can contact Devine Fire Chief Greg Atkinson at 830-665-4246. Devine Fire and Rescue also wants to extend a warm welcome to career firefighters and paramedics or retirees who would like to volunteer or help with training.
“All of the instructors are state certified and fully accredited via SFFMA, TCFP, and/or DSHS for EMT-B. Some names of instructors that people might recognize, former Chief of DVFD and retired SAFD Firefighter Patrick DuBose, former assistant Chief of DVFD and paramedic Richard Hitchcock, current DVFD Chief Greg Atkinson, Training Coordinator and 20 year Firefighter William Lay, state EMT Coordinator and Firefighter paramedic Damon Curry just to name a few.”
By Kayleen Holder