Gavin Conroy and Chris Leach learn the ropes at their first firefighters workshop.
Gavin Conroy and Chris Leach learn the ropes at their first firefighters workshop. Emma Channon

Program sparks skills

WHILE their peers pour over books in the classroom each Thursday, a group of 15 school students will be pulling on orange pants and marching to the fire station.

Once there, they will be taught vital skills in fire prevention and management, under a new program designed to give them the skills and qualifications to become a volunteer firefighter.

The Warwick High School students began the 17-week course yesterday, which regional manager for South-West Region Wayne Waltisbuhl said was to fill an increasing shortage of volunteer firefighters.

“Most volunteers are getting older and we really wanted to generate youth interest in becoming volunteer firefighters,” he said.

“The students will work with the firefighters and go through a training program which is exactly what our volunteer firefighters get.”

Kilcoy High School was the first to implement the program, which has been hailed a great success. Since its finish, that pilot program has seen a number of its students – and even their parents – staying on as volunteers.

Superintendent Waltisbuhl said each student was mentored with an experienced firefighter to gain more insight into fire prevention and fire safety strategies.

“I think it's a great concept. It gives these kids a great opportunity to learning not just firefighting but life skills,” Superintendent Waltisbuhl said.

“For this region, they will learn bush fire management skills – not just about putting fire out but how to use it responsibly.”

The group will learn the basics of fire prevention such as using the hose and communication systems, but also vital tools such as first aid.

As well as training each Thursday, the students will take part in any weekend drills.

With such a large amount of training happening during school hours, Superintendent Waltisbuhl said the high school had been a great support.

“We've fitted in with the school program and they've allowed us to have whole day training as vocation work,” he said.

“The high school has been fantastic in support of the program. (Deputy principal) Cathy Rolfe's enthusiasm has been great.”

Senior student Mathew Smith said his first day in training had been “really interesting”.

“I decided to do the program because I thought it would be an interesting career path,” he said.

“I've always considered becoming a firefighter.”

This program is the second of its kind in the Southern Downs. A similar one was implemented at the Stanthorpe State High School about 10 weeks ago, which attracted 10 students.



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