When there’s an emergency, our public safety officers answer the call and often risk their lives to save ours. In fire incidents, firefighters make every effort to preserve memories, personal belongings, and that feeling of home we all value. More than that, they investigate the causes of fires and provide essential protective services, preventing destructive situations from occurring and working to ensure smoke detectors, alarms, and extinguishers are operational.
Fire departments across the country are seeing a reduction in the number of volunteer firefighters. A local news story reported that since 2016, North Carolina volunteer fire departments have lost an average of 600 firefighters a year. This shortage means they have had to maximize their recruitment efforts.
In response, the Clemmons Fire Department is partnering with two other departments who serve western Forsyth County, the Lewisville and Vienna fire departments, to establish a Fire Academy at West Forsyth High School. Among the three fire stations, they report that more than 40 cadet firefighters are needed now. Cadets benefit from mentoring and basic training exercises to prepare for the unexpected.
West Forsyth High School joined the departments to actively recruit for the academy during this spring’s class registration process, and the program is set to begin this fall. The academy is endorsed by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and will be the third in the county alongside Walkertown and Glenn high schools.
“It is the hope and vision of our three fire departments that this academy will assist in providing volunteer firefighters that are so essential in providing emergency services to the communities we serve. Upon graduation, students will have appropriate credentials to become a career firefighter or volunteer firefighter.” -Jerry A. Brooks, Chief of the Clemmons Fire Department
The academy will educate interested students through coursework and training experiences during their four years of high school as part of the offerings within career and technical education (CTE). Courses include public safety and firefighter science and technology.
One of the largest expenses of the academy is the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), like flame-resistant protective fitted masks, helmet, safety shields, gloves, and boots. The expected cost per student is more than $950.
The fire departments applied for a grant from the Clemmons Community Foundation during our most recent competitive grant process and were awarded $10,000 to help offset the cost of equipment for the academy’s first group of students at West. The grant was made possible through the funds established by community donors, including the Thad and Mary Bingham Fund and those who have contributed to the Lewisville-Clemmons Community Fund.
Because of these donors’ generosity, our fire departments will have the ability to inspire and invest in a student’s interest toward a possible career and ensure the continued safety of our communities. Our donors’ encouragement of public safety professions will also ensure continued fire protection and emergency medical services for us all.
To all firefighters, thank you for your courage and selflessness when everything is on the line. Thank you for being one of our protectors, safeguarding our lives with your own.
This article was originally published in the Clemmons Courier.
Inspiring Community is a monthly spotlight on the organizations and local programs funded with a grant from the Clemmons Community Foundation.