Fire department considers program to train high school students

Fire department considers program to train high school students

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Starting this fall, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin could have a new group of recruits for its fire department, training future firefighters while they're still in high school.

"I’m looking to staff this fire department and one out on the west side 24 hours a day, and I need help,” said Fire Chief Christopher Garrison, talking to a group of Prairie Phoenix Academy students.

Garrison said staffing his department isn't easy.

"Throughout the state of Wisconsin, and the country, recruitment is down for both volunteer firefighters and full time firefighters, which we have both here in Sun Prairie," said Garrison.

He's hoping to start a program, partnering with Sun Prairie High School and Prairie Phoenix Academy, to train high school students to become firefighters. On Tuesday, they got a taste of what the program could involve. They would take classes at Madison College's Fire Academy, while still going to high school. They would earn college credit and prepare for what could be a career.

"Some of the kids out there, I feel, get left behind because they don't have the abilities to learn through a book, but they can tear a motor apart and they're so valuable," said Garrison.

Prairie Phoenix Academy Student Dimetriz Presley said he's found his fit.

"I just feel like I belong... I want a career like this," said Presley.

"We're reaching out to kids like that who are looking for a niche in life to maybe to change their life, give them some direction in life, give them a career give them a job," said Garrison.

At this point, the program is likely but getting the funding necessary and enough student interest is still needed. Garrison said he hopes this program also brings more diversity to his department.

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