Cadets from the Howell Public Schools’ Fire Academy burned bright while putting out flames in their end-of-year training exercise.

The Hamburg Township Fire Department’s Training Tower hosted the live burn experience for this 6th class of firefighting students from the program. Howell’s Fire Academy provides necessary training to pass the state’s fire fighter certification exam. Eighteen students from six different schools in Livingston and Oakland Counties participated. Schools represented were Howell High School, Pinckney Community High School, Hartland High School, Brighton High School, South Lyon High School, and Charyl Stockwell Prep Academy.

The Fire Academy is run by Brighton Area Fire Authority Lt. Tom Kiurski, who said they put the students through a couple of different exercises, the first being a closed-space demonstration on how fires may act. He said they are taken into the burn building to learn basic fire behavior, how smoke moves, what effect air has on that, and the different types of fuels and the smoke they produce. Instructors sit with the cadets for about 20 minutes, throwing different fuels onto the fire, and watching, so that the cadets will be better prepared for when they see it happen in real life.

Following that demonstration, the cadets broke off into smaller teams. These teams would then enter the 3-story burn building with fires set off somewhere inside. Inside, they would perform assigned tasks like reading the smoke, finding the paths, finding the fires, and then performing the appropriately assigned action of either creating ventilation or extinguishing the flames.

Dario DeLorenzo is a senior from the Charyl Stockwell Prep Academy, and described what it felt like inside, recognizing it could get even worse. He said that you might get a little nervous, but then you go back to your training and what you were taught to do and get the job done. He said, “It definitely gets pretty hot, not as hot as a regular fire…(but) definitely a different experience for anyone who’s never felt that much heat before.”

Howell High School senior Samantha Hartzler also talked about the heat she experienced inside the building. She said, “The heat doesn’t exactly hit you right as you walk in. You have to be in there a minute and let your gear soak up the heat, and then you feel it and it’s like ‘Oh, boy, it’s hot in here,’ and then you see the flames. It’s really interesting; weird but interesting. The heat was unexplainable.”

Cadet and Howell High School senior Seth Hahn talked about the importance of working as a team and everybody doing their part. He said, “You want to make sure you don’t slip up so it doesn’t affect everybody else going with you. It’s a lot of teamwork. You just gotta focus and get done what you need to get done.”

Several students praised the program, saying it was an easy recommendation to anyone who might be interested. Trevor Lockwood, a senior from Hartland High School, was one of many who said that the class has helped him grow and become more responsible and smart in his actions and decision making, both in school and outside of it.

Hamburg Township Fire Chief Nick Miller helps instruct with the Academy and calls the program “phenominal.” He noted that several of the Academy’s graduates are now fire fighters in the community, and that the program has become a standard that others are looking to emulate because of their success.

Technical Education Director for Livingston Educational Service Agency Jaime Scappaticci was at the live burn and said that she has never seen anything like this at another school. She said she is “really proud of the program” and that “it’s a great opportunity for students to get their hands dirty and get the feel for what it’s like to be a firefighter. “

Lt. Kiurski said that over the 6 years of running the Fire Academy he had hoped their numbers would be getting better and better, and signs are showing that they are. He found out this week that next year’s class has filled up and that they’ve started a waiting list, but that shouldn’t stop any student in the area from talking to a school counselor to express their interest in joining. (MK)