The value of hands on training in the fire science field
When CCHS senior Ethan Cossitt reports to his job at Crook County Fire and Rescue on Monday morning, he immediately joins a group of paramedics to observe a training on a breathing machine for calls in the field.
Cossitt is part of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) internship program at Crook County High School. It is the result of a partnership between Jason Carr, Prineville internship coordinator for the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce, and Ryan Cochran, CTE workforce development coordinator.
Any student 16 years and older at Crook County High School or Pioneer Alternative High School is eligible for an internship through the CTE internship program. Carr said his primary focus is working with students at CCHS, Pioneer Alternative High School and Central Oregon Community College Open Campus. Carr connects employers in the community with student interns.
Cossitt came on board with the program this semester, and he was interested in learning more about a career in fire science.
"My uncle is the fire chief of Boise, Idaho, fire department, and he asked me what I wanted to do for a career," he said.
When he found out more about his uncle's job, being a firefighter piqued his interest. He said the internship has solidified his decision to get into fire science.
Jerimiah Kenfield, battalion chief for Crook County Fire and Rescue, oversees the COCC student mentor program at the fire station. He is also supervising the new CCHS internship program Cossitt is part of.
"Our (COCC) scholarship program is also designed to where you can start to take classes at COCC. And if you are here running calls and everything, and you realize, "I don't like it," it's an easy way to sample it before you are committed to going to school for three or four years,"' Kenfield said.
He added that the ultimate goal is to introduce Cossitt to first responder training to see if he wants to make it a career. Kenfield said that CCFR currently offers the scholarship program for students after graduation, and upon selection into the program, pays for a scholarship to attend COCC for the paramedic and fire science degree.
"In turn, they are here volunteering, and we reimburse them for their tuition and fees and everything," he said.
Cossitt is hoping to get his foot in the door, and he is applying for the testing process to get into the scholarship program. He is scheduled to take the exam Saturday, March 14. Kenfield indicated that the testing process is competitive, and it will determine the scholarship program for the next school year at COCC.
From his standpoint, Kenfield hopes that the high school internship will be beneficial for Cossitt and future interns. He said Cossitt gets a good sense of what the department does do by going out on calls and seeing what the crews are doing at the station.
"I think he has a good snapshot of what we do, and it's by communicating and interacting with the crews, he gets a very good understanding of what the profession is," he said. "Hopefully, the point is that he would get some lessons on what first responders actually do because there is a lot of stigma of what do we actually do when we are out running calls and at the fire station."
Cossitt said he has learned a great deal about tools used in the field. He has trained for extrication from cars and car fires, as well as learning the fire engine numbers.
"I have all those down, so I am just learning the basic information," he said.
Cossitt added that sometimes when paramedics are out on medical calls, he gets to go with them. He mostly observes, although he sometimes helps with smaller things like redressing a stretcher or wiping down an ambulance.
He also observes paramedic trainings. He is taking first responder classes and Health 12 to help him with preliminary information that he can apply through his health classes at CCHS.
"Before I got this internship, I was having second guesses about it, seeing if I really wanted to do it. As I started getting into it, I saw this is what I really wanted to do," Cossitt said.
Dave Pickhardt, deputy chief for CCFR, said Cossitt comes in every Monday and Wednesday. He said Cossitt works with many different crews, and they can change from week to week.
"With vacations, sick leave and trading, he gets exposed to all the different members," Pickhardt said.
Although the department has had high school students do ride-alongs and shorter internships, this is the first long-term internship in partnership with the Crook County CTE internship.
He added that for interns who go through the student scholarship program through COCC, coming to the station to apply what they just learned makes their classes relevant.
In the student scholarship program, the department has a maximum of 12 interns at any given time. The COCC degree includes structured fire science and emergency medicine.
"A lot of times they are called a dual degree, so they end up with an AA degree in structure fire and an AA in paramedicine, so if they go into the EMT program, they ultimately come out at the end as a paramedic. Most of them take about three years to do that," said Pinkhardt.
The internship doesn't shorten students' time in school, but they can earn other certifications they might not be able to get at the college. The core curriculum at the college is the same, but students have the opportunity to get hands-on training while attending school.
Pickhardt said that Cossitt shadows a lot of the daily calls and trainings at the fire station and in the community.
"It depends on the scene — No. 1, his safety is the highest priority," said Pickhardt. He pointed out that firefighters would escort him through a scene, depending on the circumstances. "We expose him to as much of the career as we can, as long as he's safe and we take care of him, but we would like him to see the job. I don't think it's a benefit if you show up and sit in the front office.
"For a high school student to expose themselves to the workplace and see what they are getting into is invaluable," Pickhardt continued. "It's a great experience. We are totally open to doing that, and it's fun to have them interested. many of our career firefighter/paramedics were students here."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.