EMMITSBURG, Md. – Dorms, classrooms and offices sit vacant at the National Fire Academy here.
And, it will likely remain that way for some time.
When the government shut down last week, about 175 fire and rescue personnel were booted off the campus in a matter of hours.
They were winding up two weeks of classes, and were days away from graduation. While many had completed the majority of their work, some students will have to finish their assignments before receiving credit. They will get their certificates in the mail -- not in person.
The cost of the numerous flight changes is not yet known, according to a federal official who asked that his name not be used.
In addition to the regularly scheduled classes, two state weekend training courses also have been cancelled.
As at other federal installations, government workers aren’t the only ones staying home. Contract employees including cafeteria and maintenance staff also are without paychecks. Also, some USFA officials were not allowed to participate in the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service.
But, football games and other sporting events will be held as scheduled at military academies despite the shutdown.
Ohio Firefighter/Paramedic Ginger Miller was one of those whose plans changed quickly last week. But, she rolled with it.
Miller, who volunteers as an escort for the family of a fallen firefighter, had been taking a leadership skills course when the shutdown occurred.
“I was planning on staying in the same room I’d been in for the past two weeks,” she said. “But, we were notified to pack and be off campus by a certain time.”
Miller drove back home to Ohio, only to return to Maryland a few days later for the National Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial Weekend.
Now in her fifth year as an escort, Miller said while it’s stressful, she wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“It kind of recharges my batteries about what I do…”
The 15-year veteran of the West Licking Joint Fire District in Pataskala, Ohio, supported the family of a North Carolina firefighter this year. “By the end of the weekend, you’ve formed a bond. I’m happy to guide them, and give them any support they need.”
She added that allowing the family to visit the memorial meant a lot to them. “I think this past weekend shows just how great the fire service is. A lot of people pitched in…”