Building a College Fire & Paramedic Internship Program

The Keizer Fire District partnered with the Chemeketa Community College to offer practical life experience for firefighter and paramedic students.

New Intern Program 

Our most recent addition to the program is a Fire Student Intern Program which rose out of the growth and successes of the college's fire student vocational training program. The fire district signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) outlining the program with CCC recently. This program is for fire students, like those in our paramedic student program, are in need of locations to complete their on the job training and vocational work experience credits. The college fire student population had grown enough to need more vocational training agencies. Again, we began with our stakeholders in our labor and volunteer personnel ranks. Labor wanted to be assured we would not supplant career positions with student interns. Our agreement with labor did not take much more than a discussion in which KFD agreed it is unsafe to put interns in place of veteran firefighters.

Our staffing on an engine is three personnel. If a fire student intern were assigned to the shift; then the engine would have four personnel. It is important to note that a intern is a second year college student with live fire training experience, certified at the level of an International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) entry level firefighter. They are fully prepared to don an SCBA, pull a pre-connect, and fight fire and they even come with their own personal protective equipment. Our agreement with the volunteer ranks was an assurance we were not going to replace the community volunteer with student firefighters. This was easy to accommodate as we are only talking about three student interns, one on each of our three shift rotations.

The intern program is a win for the college in that it provides another cooperative work experience education program with a professional agency. The student benefits by building a work experience resume from an accredited agency. KFD benefits from the student interns and also receives usage of the college's regional training facility and receives tuition credits in consideration of their shared interest in the college student program. The entire program is a balancing act of education, accreditation, and experience.

While the benefits of partnering with the local community college are paying off, it is important to state what this program is and is not. It is a training program in partnership with our local junior college to benefit students, the college, and in turn benefit the the fire district. It is not a program to supplant career positions or to staff apparatus. It augments the staffing we have to the benefit of each partner, and provides some consideration back to the district as a community partner.

The KFD has had a fire explorer program for decades and Explorer Post #350 is part of the Boy Scouts of America curriculum. Explorer programs are designed to allow for boys and girls ages 14-18 years a healthy place to gain early learning and career perspective in whichever vocation they choose. Our curriculum provides for training in first aid, CPR, ropes and knots, emergency preparedness, citizenship, organization skills, goal setting, and more. What is really exciting is that now a 14-year-old, junior high school student can join our Explorer program, complete high school, then at age 18, join our volunteer firefighter ranks as a recruit, earn tuition credit, and graduate as a firefighter with a two-year degree, or a paramedic with a firefighter degree in three years.

Building future firefighters and paramedics from teens to career veterans is an exciting legacy we can be proud of.

JEFF COWAN is the fire chief of the Keizer, Ore., Fire District. He has college degrees in fire service management and administration, fire science, and is a certified NREMT/Paramedic. This is his 32nd year in public emergency service. He can be reached at