High School Fire Academy Pilot Program

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Travis County ESD No. 2 (the Pflugerville Fire Dept.) is launching a High School Fire Academy this school year (2017-18) in partnership with Pflugerville ISD, giving local students special opportunities for college and career readiness. It is being piloted for seniors at Hendrickson High School in hopes of possibly growing the program in future years.

Firefighters brought the concept to the school district a few years ago. Talks continued as the details of a possible partnership were developed, with Ryan Merritt, director of career and technical education, taking the lead for PfISD.  The Academy now represents the only Fire Department–School District partnership of its kind in the Capital area.

“We have constructed this program in such a way that minimizes cost for our students,” Merritt said. “Compared to similar academy programs, this is an affordable, high-quality option to get started toward a career in the fire service field.”

The Fire Department is growing just like the northeast Travis County population that it serves. The department brought on its biggest recruit class in decades this year with over 25 firefighter/paramedics, and hiring is expected to continue for the next several years.

“We are going to take a serious look at the Academy graduates to potentially work right here for their hometown fire department, whether as interns or traditional hires,” said Fire Dept. spokesperson Allison Strupeck. “We are especially excited to see so many female and minority students in the Academy who might join our ranks.”

The pilot program includes 18 seniors from HHS as follows: Tom Arnold, Hallie Beeson, Ian Cantu, Kelly Cerrito-Ramirez, Jacob Duffy, Alexys Edwards, Jesse Engdahl, Samantha Everette, Sarah Flynn, Salem Hilton, Alexandria Koger, Garrett LaMarre, Tyler LaMarre, Emiliano Martinez, Alyssa Nathanson, Hope Poirier, Connor Stevens, and Alec Villalobos.

Students in the program can earn up to eight certifications, including a capstone Texas Firefighter Certification from the Texas Commission on Fire Protection, upon completion of the program. Prior to being hired, most fire departments, including Pflugerville, require firefighters to also be certified as an emergency medical technician (EMT). Strupeck noted there are multiple programs in Central Texas where students can earn their EMT certification in one semester.

“This means that within a year of finishing high school, these academy graduates could be earning close to $50,000 plus excellent benefits in a stable profession that makes our community safer,” she said.

Academy students will meet every school day at Hendrickson for 90 minutes throughout the school year. Firefighters will lead the class at least twice a week. They will teach all of the hands-on skills, bringing fire engines and gear with them to the school. Additionally, the students will get specialized physical training from the Fire Department’s full-time fitness coordinator. Students will also learn via an online curriculum, with Mike Baker, a HHS engineering teacher and former firefighter, facilitating the classroom discussions. The program will culminate with skills testing in June at the Fire Department’s Training Field, including fighting a live fire.

Academy graduates may decide to go into firefighting, or they may choose to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in a major such as Homeland Security, Public Safety, or Emergency Management. In Texas, certified firefighters working in the field are exempt from paying state tuition for college while pursuing relevant degrees, as outlined here: http://bit.ly/2ijsmTl

For more information on the High School Fire Academy of Pflugerville, visit http://www.pflugervillefire.org/high-school-academy/ or call PFD at 512-251-2801 and ask for the Training Division.