First Due: Firefighter Training for High School Seniors

April 9, 2024
Frank Dellucky tells what his department learned about improving its education of high school seniors for fire service work after the first semester of instruction.

In August 2022, Livingston Parish, LA, Fire Protection District #4 (LPFPD4), in collaboration with Walker High School, launched the Louisiana High School Firefighter Training Program. It’s the first training program of its kind in the state. The program trains and educates high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in firefighting or in serving as a volunteer firefighter.

“Developing this program is very personal to me,” Keesler Fly, who is LPFPD4’s chief of training, says. Fly started in the Junior Firefighter program at LPFPD4 when he was a high school sophomore.

The one-year program includes Firefighter I, Firefighter II certification, which includes vehicle extrication, hazardous materials awareness and hazardous materials operations. Classes are taught by internationally certified fire service instructors.

“Students receive both classroom and hands-on practical instruction,” Fly says. “In fact, they learn the same curriculum and are trained to the same international standard as if they were going through a firefighting academy.”

Upon graduating, students have the necessary certifications to be hired as a career firefighter or as a volunteer firefighter.

The program is important, given that recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters as well as career firefighters, particularly in younger age groups, has been a great challenge for the department.

Full disclosure
Students fill out an application at their school. Applications are reviewed to ensure that the students meet the criteria of the program. Students are interviewed to ensure that they understand what’s involved and the full nature and complexity of program, including how it will tax them mentally and physically. The first class of five graduated in May 2023. Three students went to work at a career department right after graduation.

Recognizing personalities
This year’s class has nine students. The differences between the two classes were seen almost immediately.

Learning the personalities of the students is crucial to finding the right way to help the students to understand the content of instruction. Figuring out the right analogies for the right students is the trick. For example, in one case in which preplanning was being explained, one student didn’t quite get it. The instructor associated going to the prom with preplanning. Suddenly, the concept clicked for the student. Another time, offensive and defensive fire attacks were explained using comparisons to football.

Nuts and bolts
The students learn basic skills to thrive in a fire station, including how to mop, clean bathrooms and wash apparatus, and they learn responsibility. Class leaders and group leaders instruct regarding incident command and chain of command. Students learn that they get praised as a team and disciplined as a team.

Students make entries in log books in regard to  everything that happens each day that class convenes.

The department found that it can add more content and more certifications. For instance, having realized that more time is available in the second semester than the first semester, the program added ICS 100, ICS 200, ICS 700 and ICS 800 to the curriculum. This gives students the opportunity to obtain eight certifications prior to graduation.

“We tried to incorporate pump operations in last year’s curriculum, but age limits for practical testing didn’t make it possible,” Fly says.

“Furthermore,” he adds, “we must abide by the school calendar, so there are off days that take away from lessons. Those days must be made up on other days.”

Growth ahead
So far, three fire/school districts in Louisiana are teaching the program. Numerous others are interested in starting programs.

“I see great things happening with this program, and I am proud of LPFPD4 and Walker High School for making this happen,” James Wascom, who is the fire chief of LPFPD4, says.

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Firehouse, create an account today!