Firefighter students train on campus

Flames tore through the building. A dozen men in heavy gear ran in, dragging hoses. Fire trucks surrounded the building, and bystanders looked on in awe. Nearby firefighters worked to get “victims” out of a crumpled heap of cars sandwiched together.

In no time, the flames were subdued, and a light residue of smoke in the air was the only evidence of the huge fire that had seemed out of control. The “victims” were safe but surrounded by pieces of the cars they were once trapped in. It may sound like a disaster scene straight from the movies, but it is all in a day’s work for the fire recruits in the RCA program of UVU’s Emergency Services department.

For most of the recruits, this is one of those days that they have been dreaming of their entire lives. They are well on their way to a career in the Fire Service.

“The Recruit Program makes their dreams become reality,” said RCA Instructor Chris Milne. “It gives hopeful firefighters the skills to become an intricate part of the firefighting crew. That is accomplished through extensive hands-on training.”

Fire recruits’ days are far from boring. It starts with an hour of hard-core physical training designed to get them in the best shape to tackle everything that the program has to throw at them.

Part of the day is spent in the classroom, learning everything from what to do in a major chemical spill to how to tie a knot. But the real excitement begins when they get to go outside and do what they love to do — play with fire. “Firefighting gives us an outlet for our pyro urges without getting in trouble,” said Milne.

When asked what his favorite part of the program was, recruit Scott Haney said, “The best part for me is anytime we get to go out and play with fire … and the high-powered saws and power tools are pretty cool too.”

The fire program is not the average university class and is not for the faint of heart. It’s a heavy-lifting, adrenaline-pumping, sweaty, smoky ride. But like any class on campus, there is homework, tests and a lot of studying.

It is also structured with strict rules and even stricter instructors. “I really like the structure and knowing what is expected of me. It helps me perform and pushes me to do better,” said recruit Jake Dennison.

In this case, however, at the end of the semester, recruits are certified firefighters and are prepared to begin working for a fire department. The majority of graduates go on to paramedic school, where 95 percent of graduates go on to get jobs in their field.

Many students continue to pursue their degrees while working full-time in a job they love. The Emergency Services department has four different associate’s degrees and a bachelor’s program that allows firefighters to advance up the career ladder.

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