Fire Science Program Blazing New Trails


By: Isabelle Flener  

Lewis and Clark started a new program this year, the Fire Science Academy. This is an addition to the Fire Science Program. The Fire Science Program and Academy gives high school and college students the chance to learn basic operations for firefighting. The programs are ideal for those wanting to further their knowledge and education in the fire field.  

The program began in 2016 and has continued to blaze since then. Edward Burnley is the Fire Science Program Coordinator while Tanner Sweetman is the Lead in the Fire Science Academy.  

“The main thing about the Fire Science Program is the early recruitment and involvement of high school students to get them exposed to the fire service,” said Sweetman. “Typically, you have to wait until at least 18 in not 21 to get on the departments to get the training that we are able to facilitate with this course.”  

starts them in that direction.” 

Who can join the Fire Science Programs? 

“Any student can take the course. It is preferred they are on a department that way they can get state certification,” said Burnley. “Our college traditional students are paired in as well, so we have high school and college level students.” 

The Fire Science Academy offers the basics of the whole program. Students will learn MOD basic operations firefighter, MOD A, B and C, hazardous materials operations, and emergency medical responder. Students getting an associate degree in Fire Science will take all except the EMR course.  

“Within the fire science academy, we are teaching this course, the BOF (basic operations firefighter) program offers the minimum certifications to become a firefighter within the state or in your associate degree should you go on to the fire science degree aspect of it,” said Sweetman. “Getting the core information, certifications and hands-on training is the main benefit. Being able to get them finished early and have on a resume or a training portfolio is another feather in the cap.” 

How did the Fire Science Academy start? 

“It started back in 2016 we got on to teaching some of the courses we were a little bit more comfortable with, stuff that we have a vast knowledge in. It expanded, I had not thought of teaching high school level style classes,” said Sweetman. “But when Ed approached me and asked what I thought, the goals (with it being a vocational mix) were interesting. It is a different dynamic, to my knowledge we have not had anything like that in the area. So, this is the pilot program to that. We have had an instructing background, for me when I take classes myself, I look at the instructors and what kind of effect they have, especially in your core and basic classes. Typically, those instructors set in your mind at the beginning your career or path in life. It would be neat to do that and be able to set those goals and standards early on for people.” 

Students usually are with a department prior to joining the program, but that is not required. Zac Herrin was a student through the program and works for a local fire department. 

“I really did enjoy the BOF class, I learned a lot and thought it was taught really well and would recommend it to anyone,” said Herrin. “My favorite part was seeing new people getting really interested in this amazing job. I think the most important part of being with a fire department is being a part of something greater than oneself.” 

Although the Fire Science Academy is new this year, they are creating opportunities for many high school and traditional students.  

“This being the first year we are starting to gain more momentum. The local fire chiefs have been recognizing what we have been doing and have become incredibly supportive,” said Sweetman. They have given equipment, manpower and the resources to make this happen. They are also seeing the benefits of this, where students are coming to be volunteers or joining the explorers’ post. We imagine that 2-5 years down the road this is going to be something that the area is really something the area is going to benefit from.”  

“For me it is a numbers game, so obviously we got into teaching because we want to increase the knowledge of the fire service in our local area. But as the program coordinator, we were just seeing lower and lower numbers and that is not a college thing it is a fire service thing,” said Burnley. “This idea got brought to us by Chief Wade Shalhut (Wood River) of pairing high school students with traditional. We ran with it and were able to make something of it. We do believe this is going to be long term for us and be a feeder for the future.” 

To get in touch or more information students can talk to their counselor or contact Ed Burnley at (Edwardsville, East Alton Wood River, Civic Memorial, Alton, and Roxana).

About Isabelle Flener

Isabelle is working towards her Associates of Arts degree, with plans to graduate in Fall 2024. After completing her arts degree, she intends to transfer to a university to pursue a degree in photojournalism.
View all posts by Isabelle Flener →

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