TCR introduces 16-week Firefighter 1 Academy to meet community demand this fall

A firefighter surveys part of the Bull Draw Fire that burned thousands of acres on the West End in 2018. Technical College of the Rockies announced it will offer a Firefighter 1 Academy this fall to meet the community demand for the program.

Technical College of the Rockies is offering a Firefighter 1 Academy this fall to prepare students for the state’s Firefighter 1 exams. This intensive 12 credit hour program is 16 weeks, including state testing. Students will have a rigorous schedule with lectures from seasoned firefighters and hands-on applications of materials at the Montrose Fire Drill Grounds.

Throughout the 16-week program, students will develop skills on fire structure management, ground fires, car fires, forcible entry, among others.

Lauren Filter, TCR’s emergency medical services program coordinator, said the program was created through a collaboration between the college and community.

“Through collaboration with local fire departments, schools on the Front Range and the CDFPC (Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control), we developed a program that will be the first of its kind on the Western Slope,” she said. “The firefighter program was created because there was a large demand expressed by the community, especially the EMT students who were receiving education at TCR.”

TCR faculty have worked with the Montrose Fire Department to prepare the program. Other local agencies have shared their insights to ensure the program meets the needs of departments. The college will continue to finalize program details over the summer.

“We look forward to working alongside Montrose Fire to train the next generation of firefighters,” Filter said.

Instructors for the fire academy are current or former firefighters, who have gone through intensive firefighter instructor courses.

Prior to beginning the program, all students must attend a mandatory orientation on Aug. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Montrose Fire Training Facility, located at 65960 Racine Road in Montrose. Registration for the program will close on that date, except under circumstances approved by the fire coordinator or TCR director.

According to the information packet about the academy, “It is a very exacting career path and students are strongly encouraged to bring parents or spouses to this meeting (orientation) so that they too may understand what will be asked of each Fire Academy student.”

Students will complete a Firefighter 1 course and a Hazardous Materials Awareness and Operations course, but enrollment is limited to 20 students, so interested students are encouraged to register.

“Students will be prepared to fight fires, aid in search and rescue efforts in a variety of environments and prevent fires through community education,” Filter said. “They will be trained to work as a team, relying on their peers to ensure everyone’s safety in life and death situations.”

Filter added, “Students will be encouraged to complete the EMT program in addition to the Firefighter 1 program, so that they can have all the skills desired by local fire departments for their new hires.”

Registration opened on June 1. Students, who meet the prerequisites, will be admitted to the program on a first-come, first-served basis. The registration cutoff is Aug. 4 to allow for proper gear to be ordered in each student’s size and since the cohort is expected to attend a pre-semester meeting.

The program’s tuition and fees for resident students are approximately $2,406 and for nonresidents approximately $4,182, which includes a special fire science fee of $500 to cover initial state testing fees.

Within the information packet, it reads, “Due to the high demand of this class, students may be asked to pay a non-refundable 25% deposit (about $601 for residents and $1,045 for non-residents) at the time of application to hold their seat. Contact TCR for questions regarding financial aid."

Due to the physical demand of firefighting, the information packet states that students are expected to be physically fit. In order to participate in the academy, students must pass the TCR Fire Academy Physical Ability Test, which will be administered at the beginning of the academy. More information about the PAT can be found at www.tcr.edu. For pre-academy training, students are encouraged to train, using one of several firefighter workout programs online or a workout program developed by the TCR staff.

“The Firefighter 1 program is intense,” she said. “Students must take every aspect seriously as their life, or the lives around them, may ultimately depend on their knowledge and skills someday.”

Classroom lectures will be held at the PIC Place, located at 87 Merchant Drive in Montrose. Drill ground sessions will be held at the Montrose Fire Training Facility. Students should expect to spend two full days in class each week covering theory and skills. There will be several practical application days, which will include live fire training. Outside the classroom, students should plan to spend two to three hours on homework and studying per hour of class time.

Students who successfully complete the Firefighter 1 portion of class may take the State Firefighter 1 written, practical and live burn exams to obtain certification. The cost is roughly $150.

Students who successfully complete the Hazardous Materials portion may take the State Hazardous Materials Awareness and Operations written and practical exams to obtain certification. The cost is roughly $120.

“Firefighting is a true life and death job,” she said. “Going into a structure fire is not for the faint of heart and there is a reality that you may not exit. The goal, of course, is for everyone to go home safely, which means that we must practice the skills to perfection, experience various environments as much as possible, and train daily so that no one can ever say we weren’t prepared.”

Review the information packet about the fire academy here.

Lauren Brant is a staff writer and digital content coordinator for the Montrose Daily Press.

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