High school students put out fires for school credit at West-MEC

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Career and technical education programs, or CTE’s, offer high school students the opportunity to learn a variety of professional skills. We learned more from Sean Stumbaugh, who teaches fire-science at West-MEC (Western Maricopa Education Center), and Anisa Lopez, a student whose goal is to add to the ranks of female firefighters.

Firefighting classes

“There’s a really good history with high school students coming through West-MEC and Glendale College Fire Science program and moving into careers in the fire service,” said Stumbaugh of the twelve-year-old program. “So my understanding and experience with it is it offers high school students kind of a head start into their chosen career path and they get the actual hands-on education that they are required, certifications and they can move into their career much quicker than if they had to wait until they were in college.”

The programs include classes on the history of fire suppression, instruction on being a first responder, fire chemistry, and techniques of the trade. Later on, students get a course on wildland firefighting and certification that will allow them to apply for jobs. Before the pandemic, students also participated in ride alongs with firehouses.

Female firefighters

“I was just really excited to be able to do something that would get me started in my future career and be able to help my community. It’s really something I wanted to do my whole life,” said Lopez, whose goal is to be a municipal firefighter. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 8% of firefighters were female in 2018. Lopez says that there many girls in her class with similar interests and goals as her.

Stumbaugh says the number of female firefighters has increased over the years since he first started in 1983, with the numbers coming out of Glendale Community College looking promising. “When it comes to female firefighters, it’s not always how big and strong you are its, ‘Hey, what’s your heart look like? Do you have what it takes inside? And can we teach you techniques to do the job right?’ That’s what we do.”

Sean Stumbaugh, Fire Service Instructor, West-MEC; Anisah Lopez, Student, West-MEC

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