Thirty-five incoming Southern Maine Community College students are taking part in this year’s Summer Fire Academy to kick off their participation in the College’s Public Safety Student Live-in Program for the 2019-20 academic year.
The Fire Academy, which began Monday and runs through Aug. 23, provides students three weeks of training to master basic fire and emergency medical services skills in preparation for firefighter certification tests in September. Students who participate in SMCC’s Live-in Program receive fire-rescue and EMS training and live and work at fire stations in southern Maine while enrolled as full-time students at SMCC.
David Skelps of Middlefield, Conn., considered going to a four-year university to study Fire Science, but instead chose SMCC because of the Live-in Program’s hands-on experience and the College’s low tuition. He plans to earn Paramedicine and Fire Science degrees at SMCC.
“I’ve wanted to be a firefighter for as long as I can remember,” Skelps said the first day of the Academy. “The program is renowned for how many well-rounded firefighters it produces and where they go on to work.”
This year’s incoming group includes Fire Science and Paramedicine students, and one nursing student, said Steve Willis, chair of SMCC’s Fire Science program. Twelve of the students are from Maine, with the remainder from other New England states.
Live-in students receive valuable career experience and training, and partner communities benefit from well-trained and enthusiastic students. The program also helps fire-EMS departments supplement their staffs, which is vital as the ranks of volunteer firefighters have fallen in recent years, said Falmouth Fire Chief Howard Rice. This will mark the 11th year that Falmouth has participated in the program.
“The best decision I ever made as chief was to become part of SMCC’s Live-in Program,” Rice said. “The students are living the firefighter’s life every day.”
Now in its 31st year, the Live-in Program started with just six students — two each at the South Portland, Gorham and Scarborough fire departments. This year’s Live-in Program will have 88 new and returning students, including the 35 in the Summer Fire Academy.
This year’s participants will serve at 30 fire-EMS stations in 16 communities stretching from Kennebunk in the south to Topsham in the east to as far inland as Raymond.