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October 12, 2004 > ROP Looks Behind Firehouse Doors

ROP Looks Behind Firehouse Doors

Fire Science/First Responder Class

At 7:20 a.m. every weekday, a Mission Valley Regional Occupation Program classroom on Laiolo Rd. in Fremont gets busy. Thirty male and female students spend early morning hours before their regular school day to learn through practical exercises about the world of fire service and the responsibilities of being the first professional on the scene of a fire or medical emergency. Although the class is not restricted to high school students, they are given registration priority.

Veteran firefighter Sam LoBese, after a 24 hour "day" at a Union City firehouse, supervises calisthenics of the student squads, led by student team captains. Although theory of the profession is an important part of the curriculum, the class is oriented towards practical knowledge to gain an understanding of what it takes to join an elite group of professionals. The morning workout is included to emphasize that physical as well as mental fitness is necessary to handle the equipment and maintain composure during the stress of emergency situations.

The yearlong classroom instruction is aligned with profession requirements and can take many forms. For instance, one session included writing "Thank You" letters to Eric Depper of Oakland Turnout Services, who donated 10 "turnouts" - firefighter jackets and protective gear - to the program. Sam explained to the class that public relations is important to preserving the excellent relationship with the public and business community and must be a high priority for all firefighting personnel. Assisted by Sara Crowder, Resource Teacher, Sam leads a classroom that is relaxed, yet focused with a clearly professional atmosphere. Charlotte Grabill of Mission Valley ROP says that this class is designed to become an "academy" as it refines methods and gathers equipment and materials.

Due to the nature of the profession, instructors LoBese, Paul Tappan, also of the Union City Fire Department and retired firefighter and Emergency Medical Services teacher, Lori Adkins rotate teaching responsibilities. Lori teaches the state certified course, First Responder, during the class. LoBese says that puts these students ahead of thousands of others since, with that certification, students can "go right into EMT or paramedic school. He adds that additional instructors are welcome since in his profession, there is the possibility of emergency extended service or injury that would create a scheduling problem. The emphasis of the class is realism so those who intend to pursue a career in fire service or related professions have a practical sense of firefighting and allied careers. Sam says that the career applications of the class range from firehouses, to helicopters, ships, aircraft rescue, airport based rescue, police, hospitals and the list goes on and on.

Instruction will also give students an advantage when applying in a highly competitive environment for these positions. LoBese says that after completion of the course, students will have a competitive edge since they will be familiar with basic firefighting skills and tips on how to fill out an application, interview techniques and appropriate dress for an interview. He adds that the course of study is a lot of work. "This is not a high school course, it is a college course of study."

The nature of the class calls for equipment that can be expensive. Generous donations have helped stretch a lean ROP budget for this popular class. Sam would like to eventually be able to use a space behind the classroom for hoses and other firefighting equipment - hoses, ladders, etc. - and even an older fire engine for practical exercises. The class teachers have their eye on a surplus fire truck, currently located in the Central Valley that can be purchased for $3,000. Donations are gratefully accepted and can be used to increase the inventory of the class. The instructors are also reaching out to other fire personnel for additional support in the class. Those interested in donating equipment or providing financial support can contact the program directly at (510) 657-8524. Please leave a message if the phone is unattended.

Students are enthusiastic about the program and understand the value of this instruction. Hillary Ritch, an 11th grade student at James Logan High School in Union City says the class is "awesome" and Justin La Strape, a senior at Newark Memorial and Priscilla Esquivel, an 11th grade student at Logan agree. Justin, who has been a Fremont Fire Department Explorer for the past year and a half, says the class is "more than I thought it would be."

Sam says that students who complete the class successfully will be "way ahead in the ballgame down the road." At the end of the course, a certificate of completion will note the instruction completed and acquired skills. Local departments are aware of the program and recognize its value. He adds, "After completion of this course, they [the students] will be able to function more efficiently in Fire Academy and as a probationary firefighter." No matter what career path is chosen by these students, this experience provides a rare and valuable peek behind the big rollup doors of a local fire station.

If you want to know more about this class or others available through Mission Valley ROP, call (510) 657-1865. For questions or donations specifically related to the Fire Science/First Responder program, call (510) 657-8524.

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