BREC helps train future firefighters

Blue Ridge Early College students are training for possible careers fighting fires through BREC’s Fire Internship Program.

From left are Chief Lee Sudia and BREC Fire Interns Wyatt Foss, Steve Madden, Joe Madden, Jacob Pressler, and Max Tavernier.

The Fire Internship is a cooperative program between BREC and the Cashiers-Glenville Fire Department that allows students that have finished the Fire I, II, and III curriculum at Blue Ridge the opportunity to become an Intern at CGFD.

As interns, students spend a minimum of 135 hours at CGFD to continue their fire department studies and indoctrination in Fire Department Culture and Fire Operation Practices, said BREC Fire Academy Chief Lee Sudia.

Chief Lee Sudia explains some of the instruments in CGFD’s ladder truck to BREC Fire Interns.

As part of their continuing education, interns are taught Fire Apparatus Operations and Hydraulics (Fluid Physics), and of the 25 pieces of apparatus that the department operates, including the 75-foot ladder truck.

Their training also includes developing water supplies for fighting fires, pump operations, figuring complex hose layouts and how to supply the required water to each line at the required pressure.

Chief Sudia said he teaches these classes at the college level, so the indoctrination is intensive. Periodic practical and written evaluations are conducted with each of the interns and they are evaluated by both Chief Sudia and CGFD Chief Randy Dillard.

Some of the guages and instruments students learn about as part of the BREC Fire Internship Program.

“The commitment shown by these young men and women in the program is outstanding,” said Chief Sudia. “What is most rewarding to me is to see the cadets step out of their ‘Comfort Zone’ attempt things they have never attempted before, and see the sense of accomplishment and personal growth that accompanies their successful completion of some of the more intense practical skills attempted. Things like someone who thought they were afraid of heights climbing a 35-foot extension ladder or the 75-foot aerial ladder on the ladder truck. And the sense of accomplishment when they touch back down on the ground.”

This is the 3rd year of the fire academy at BREC and the first internship class. Interns all began the Fire Program as freshman and they include Wyatt Foss, Joe Madden, Steve Madden, Jacob Pressler, and Max Tavernier.

BREC Fire Intern Joe Madden sits in CGFD’s ladder truck listening to instructions from Chief Lee Sudia.

Tavernier said he enrolled in the Fire Program because it seemed interesting.

“I joined because it seemed interesting,” said Tavernier. “I move a lot and everywhere I go I have good friends who are firefighters. I look up to them and they think it’s the best thing to be and have been pointing me in that direction. The classes have been pretty amazing, I’m loving it. I’m getting experience and if I end up choosing this as a career, I’ll have some knowledge in it.”

After the first semester of taking Fire classes at BREC, Pressler said he knew he wanted to complete the entire Fire Program curriculum.

Pressler is no stranger to fighting fires as he has worked with the CGFD for the past two years and responded to many calls. He said he loves working with all of the guys at the department and could see it as his career choice.

“I have learned many things throughout my time in the fire academy, I think everything I have learned will help me in the future with my career,” said Pressler. “When we are at the fire department for the internship we are supposed to be doing what the other fire fighters at the department are doing, so when they do their chores we help out, or when they check trucks we check trucks, if they go on a call we go on a call.”

Seniors Steve and Joe Madden began the program as freshman and both volunteer at the Sylva Fire Department as well.

Chief Lee Sudia said the Fire Program would not be possible without the use of the facilities and collaboration with the Cashiers-Glenville Fire Department.

“I thought this program was cool and a good thing to get in to,” said Steve. “At some point I’m sure firefighting will be in my future in some way, shape, or form.”

Joe said the classes have helped him with his work with the FD out in Sylva.

“I figured this would be a good thing to get in to,” said Joe. “Take some classes and be more educated, normally you have to pay to learn this. Not sure on it quite yet if it will be a career for me, but it’s an option.”

Foss said fighting fires is in his genes and he may follow in his parents’ footsteps.

“I think it’s fun and interesting,” said Foss. “My mom and dad are firefighters out in Tucson, Arizona, and I’ve always thought about pursuing a career in it.”

BREC Fire Intern looks inside the cab of CGFD’s ladder truck listening to Chief Lee Sudia explain the vehicle’s instruments.

Chief Sudia said the Fire Program would not be possible without the support from the CGFD, BREC Administration, and the Blue Ridge Foundation. He also said wheels are in motion for BREC to get it’s own facility to train future fire fighters.

“I am also humbled by the response of the Blue Ridge Foundation, the School Administration and the Cashiers-Glenville Fire Department by their response to the program and assistance that they have provided,” he said. “We are now actively engaged in developing the $60,000 that would be necessary for building a state-of-the-art fire training facility here at Blue Ridge. This facility would have all of the props necessary for the students to complete all of the practical requirements of the Firefighter Program and would be available for use by the Cashiers-Glenville Fire Department and other agencies in training of Emergency Services personnel.”

He added the new training center would be constructed of six, 40-feet long by 8-feet wide by 8-foot-high ocean-going containers, commonly called “Conexes,” and would be available year-round for our students to use.

Pictured at the top of the article BREC Fire Intern Wyatt Foss works a hose at the Cashiers-Glenville Fire Department.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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