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Friday, August 24, 2012

GAZETTE NEWSPAPER: Flowers students look to blaze new path in firefighter program

Michael Agwumezie, 16, of Bowie, said he knew that he wanted his first job to be an invigorating one where something new would be happening every day.
When the junior at Springdale’s Charles H. Flowers High School heard last spring about the High School Fire Science Cadet Program, he said he immediately applied.
The two-year program is a partnership with the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department that trains the 20 students to become firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
“Firefighting is a hand-on job,” he said. “It is never boring.”
Thelmetria Michaelides, the county fire/EMS battalion chief and cadet program coordinator, said Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor came up with the idea for the program, which is held daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The county school system chose Flowers students to participate in the program because the St. Joseph’s Fire/EMS Station 806 is located across the street at 2901 St. Joseph’s Drive and because it had the necessary training equipment, Michaelides said. Cadets will have earned 17 college credits and 36 hours of community service upon program completion.
Flowers principal Gorman Brown said the selected students had to go through a “highly rigorous” process in order to participate in the program. He said that the more than 50 students who applied were interviewed by both the school administration and the fire department, and had to submit a writing sample and take a physical.
Mark E. Brady, county fire/EMS spokesman, said new firefighters and EMTs are always needed as there is “an attrition rate of three per month due to retirement, injury, etc.”
“We have an approved strength of 810 but only have about 770 on the job,” he said. “So there is a constant need to hire and train firefighter/medics.”
Francis Bauer, a Prince George’s County firefighter and a program instructor, said cadets cannot participate in actual firefighting duties because the minimum firefighter age in Maryland is 18, but through the program, cadets learn valuable lessons like basic first aid training and how to use hoses and other equipment.
Bauer said the cadets are discovering that it is a whole different world when they cross the street to the firehouse.
“They are stepping into adulthood,” he said. “They are learning discipline, which they are not used to. But I am training them to keep them alive. It’s an investment in them and in the fire department.”
Joia Bullock, 16, a junior, said she was looking forward to the training.
“I am excited to start working with the equipment and to get into the swing of things,” said Bullock of Upper Marlboro.
Bullock was particularly proud of the fact that she was able to pass the physical exam, which included running, lifting weights and holding a plank.
Agwumezie said learning how to respond to fires and other emergency situations was another benefit of participating in the program.
“I will learn how to protect my family,” he said.


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