Teens learn how to fight fires
MEDINA, N.D. -- The sirens wail as a red pumper truck pulls up a narrow gravel road toward a propane fire here Wednesday afternoon. The truck is carefully parked as high school students from across North Dakota ramble out and pull out the hose. A...
MEDINA, N.D. -- The sirens wail as a red pumper truck pulls up a narrow gravel road toward a propane fire here Wednesday afternoon.
The truck is carefully parked as high school students from across North Dakota ramble out and pull out the hose. A group of five students leads the way while two stand back picking up slack in the hose.
They approach the blaze slowly, aiming the mist carefully and eventually extinguish the fire.
This was a carefully monitored drill and is commonplace at the North Dakota Fire Academy.
"Honestly, so far it has blown my mind," said Aaron Haux, a 16-year-old from Kindred, N.D. "I didn't come expecting to have this much fun and learn this much."
The North Dakota Fire Academy is the brainchild of Darrell Graf, a firefighter with 41 years experience.
Graf said his goal is to provide training to young people to get them to stay in their communities and pursue a career in fire service.
"When these people leave here they take back to their departments good, honest, simple safety procedures," he said.
Graf educates the students beforehand and then closely monitors the exercises from a watch tower. Rocky Brown, vocational agriculture teacher at Wishek Public School and firefighter, is also on the ground keeping an eye on things.
"A firefighter's job is to save lives," Graf said. "The first one he needs to save is his own."
Students are able to test their limitations by climbing a 50-foot ladder or entering a vacant home in the same style a regular firefighter would, he said.
"They need to know their limitations now instead of at a fire," Graf said.
Students will extinguish propane fires that simulate an uncontrolled burn, extinguish a burning vehicle pinned under a burning propane truck and use forced entry to enter a vacant house, he said. They will also accomplish other tasks firefighters would encounter.
"This is stuff that fire departments all over the state need to do and they don't have the wherewithal to do it," Graf said.
Most rural fire departments in North Dakota can't afford the expensive training, he said.
The techniques being taught are from the International Fire Service Training Association manual, Graf said.
"All the knowledge I have today came from Darrell Graf and his fire academy school," said Jake McClintock, Rugby (N.D.) High School graduate who completed the course last year. "Now I get to be on a Marine ship firefighter crew and helping out here, so it's life changing."
McClintock is not a Marine, but does volunteer once a year in Galveston, Texas.
Eight students from Kindred, Walcot, Goodrich, Bismarck, Great Bend, Langdon and Wilton will complete the nine-day course and earn half of a high school credit for their work.
Each year classes are taught in early summer and in the fall.
"We had 13 students last year and everyone was 100 percent satisfied with what they learned," Graf said.
The students stay in two houses in Medina and have a cook who prepares their meals.
The cost of the program is around $250 and is offered through vocational education programs in some North Dakota schools.
The students all agreed that they enjoyed the camp and was one of the more fun camps they attended.
"The thing is with sports camps that'll only get you through high school," Haux said. "This you can use for the rest of your life."
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at email@example.com