Public fire safety classes available at Sierra College

Fall curriculum brings online fire behavior course to campus
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
-A +A

ROCKLIN – With an exceptionally dry fire season underway, Sierra College hopes its evolving fire academy will soon attract aspiring firefighters and concerned civilians alike.

The college will offer four firefighting courses this fall, free of prerequisites and open to students in any program. None of the courses are entirely new, but one of them has opened an on-campus alternative to its online curriculum for the first time, and all of them aim to improve public safety by turning out better firefighters and smarter residents.

Fire technology instructor Matt Jewett, a 2002 graduate of the college’s fire academy and former trainer at Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, said the classes are typically filled by students pursuing fire service careers, but some of them could be useful to the general public.

“They’re for people who are interested in getting their associate’s in fire technology, who are interested in pursuing a career in fire service, and they can be used as science electives for other degrees as well,” he said.

The four courses cover basic tenets of a firefighter’s education: Fire Behavior and Combustion, which is new to the Rocklin campus and explains the science of how fire develops and behaves, what it does in structures and spaces, and rules for how to extinguish it; Basic Firefighter Training, which reviews general safety, types of fuels, prescribed burning and other facets of hazard management; Fire Hydraulics, which explains mental calculations necessary to get water from a pressure system to a fire; and Fire Apparatus and Equipment, which summarizes the tools that are appropriate for a range of situations from wildland fires to airport crashes to urban emergencies.

Fire technology coordinator Tim Palmer, a retired battalion chief from the Rocklin Fire Department, said the Behavior and Combustion course particularly covers the essentials of how a homeowner might to protect himself and his property in case of an emergency.

“If people understand what fire is, how it acts and how to extinguish it, it could definitely help them,” he said.

Palmer said enrollment in Sierra College’s fire academy has declined in recent years, but he thinks it has potential to improve local fire service by training and recruiting better firefighters. The program must compete with academies in Sacramento, Yuba County, Santa Rosa and dozens more around the state, he said, but private academies are much more expensive and not always scheduled around an 8-to-5 weekday job.

“It’s one of a handful of community colleges that offer a full spectrum of education for those who want a career in fire service. For example, we offer EMT classes, associate’s degrees in fire technology, a fire certificate program and a state-accredited fire academy,” Palmer said. “We try to tailor our academy for the working adult, so our courses are offered Tuesday and Thursday nights, every Saturday and an occasional Sunday.”

Having returned to the college after making a successful career out of the education it gave him, Jewett personally attested to the state of his professional field: competitive but attainable. Plans are underway, he said, to make the college a one-stop shop for aspiring firefighters.

“There are a lot of fire departments hiring right now, and they’re going to continue to be hiring for years, so we want to be the institution that gives them every tool they need to become a firefighter,” Jewett said. “We’re working with our advisory board … and seeing what we can do to make it the best program in the region, and give students everything they need to be the most competitive they can.”

Students can sign up for these courses at any time before they begin the fourth week of August, but the deadline to enroll in fall semester at Sierra College is Aug. 5.