Tyler Junior College students can get awarded 15 hours of college credit with a science associate degree in fire science. After passing the state exam, students are able to transfer to any university in Texas.
The TJC Fire Academy is the organization that helps reward its cadets with those 15 hours of college credit. The academy is a place for any student who wishes to pursue a career in firefighting and wants to get certified. The salary range for firefighting in the state of Texas is estimated to be $28,000 to $60,800 per year.
TJC offers two one-year Certificates of Proficiency in fire protection and a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree, structured to provide the knowledge and skills required for entry-level positions in a wide range of fire departments.
“We began the process of developing the Fire Academy about three years ago in ’09. We started last year with two academies. We are at our third academy now,” said Jeanine Grimes, the personal staff technician and head of Public Service Careers at TJC’s West Campus.
Through an agreement between the City of Tyler, Tyler Fire Department, and TJC, the TJC Fire Academy has permission to utilize the Tyler Fire Department’s training facilities and are instructed under Andy King, Casey Cabaniss, Dale Peterson, Daniel Ledkins, Dave Hickey, Dwayne Lynch, Hal Walker, Jeff Akin, Jeff Hudgens, Jesse Crotty, Ramon Coven, Randy Lee, Jason Teague and Robert Mahon.
“There are several firefighting academies around the state. The academy we have here is certified by the Texas Commission for Fire Protection,” said Jerry Eastman, the director of the Fire Academy at TJC West Campus. “We’ve also added a physical-agility training course; adding 36 hours to their degrees.”
Within the TJC Fire Academy, students/cadets must learn about fire protection, industrial fire protection, forest fires, protective gear, fire prevention, computing, codes and construction, and dealing with electrical fires. The requirements for cadets are background checks, a high school diploma or GED, psychological evaluation, and physical exam. Students must be 18 years or older to attend.
“It’s physically demanding and emotionally demanding whenever dealing with loss of life, or mass casualties, or car wrecks that occur,” Eastman said.
“It’s not just agility. It’s also strength. We get them [the cadets] on the weights. We have them do squat jumps and we have them work with fire hoses; running the heavy fireman hoses down the stairs. We’ll have them running distances. It’s an hour long process,” said Robert Mahon, the director of the Ornelas Health and Physical Education Center and assistant for the TJC football team. “I was a licensed firefighter; working with structured fires. I was a crew boss; I would run about 20 people crews. You delegate responsibility and make sure it gets done.”
The next academy will begin Jan. 14, and the deadline for application is Dec. 14. All applications and forms must be turned in before the Christmas break starts.
“There are 14 cadets so far within the last academy, who are graduating on Nov. 30th. This next academy will have 31 successful completed cadets,” Grimes said.
“Everybody wants to save someone’s life at some point. This is giving students the chance to give back, so I can definitely see the academy expanding.” Mahon said.
For more information about the TJC Fire Academy call (903) 510-2404 or visit their website at www.tjc.edu/fireacademy.com.