Seward County partners with community college for firefighter-resident program

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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) A red flag warning remains in effect for parts of southwest Kansas including in Seward County until late Wednesday.

With a shortage of volunteers for local fire departments, students at Seward County Community College are stepping in to fight fires when they're not in class.

The Seward County Fire Department partnered with the college to start the student-resident firefighter program. They say the goal is to be out the door in two minutes.

"We can get three engines, a 3,000-gallon tanker out the door within two minutes basically at any time now. Before that, you were looking at 10 – 15 minutes by the time the page call person got back," said Seward County Fire Chief Andrew Barkley.

The fire department currently has 12 men on duty. With the program, they also have five students fully staffed.

Students must be enrolled full-time at the college to be a part of the program and take advantage of other benefits.

"We take care of tuition, we take care of meal plans, and we provide room and board and in return, they have to maintain a 2.5 GPA and be a full-time student at Seward County Community College," said Barkley.

For Jaime Gutierrez, having the support of their professors has allowed him to manage both roles easier.

"All of our professors know that we're firefighters and if something happens, we leave during class. Or if we're late to class in the morning, you know, there was probably a call or something," he said.

You can find out more about SCCC's firefighter resident program here.