Patriot Profile: WaNIC Fire and EMS trains future firefighters

Hannah Norton, Staff Writer

You stand in a room that’s over 100 degrees, hurriedly trying to put out a fire. You rush to douse towering flames with water, as large pieces of wood burn before your eyes. This may sound like a tragic situation, but it actually describes something that seniors Erika Padilla and Preston Mitsui, students who are a part of the local WaNic Fire and EMS Program, do regularly.
The program involves a large amount of hands-on training, teaching students to learn to prevent and stop fires, perform emergency medical procedures, and more.
“My favorite day is when we go to North Bend. We go to North Bend Fire Academy and we get to practice live fire,” Mitsui said. “They burn a whole bunch of wood pallets inside the room. It’s an all-day thing, and is basically like what we would do if we were actually going to the Academy.”
The WaNic Fire and EMS Program allows students to learn and work in an environment very different from that of a typical school. Rather than sitting in desks all day, a large portion of students’ work involves movement and interaction. For example, WaNic Fire students visit and practice at fire stations every Thursday and Friday, and have fitness days on Wednesdays.
“You don’t really have homework and you get to hang out with kids from a bunch of other schools,” Padilla said. “It’s a very cool way to get out of the classroom. I really enjoy it.”
The program provides students with three high school credits, as well as up to seven college credits. This allows students to have time to take WaNic classes and still get enough credits at Liberty.
“The program has given me ideas for things I can do in the future; it’s given me pathways of what I can do after high school,” Padilla said. “It showed me that there’s so many other things to do than the ordinary college path. And they give you a bunch of skills that you can use in the future – we do mock interviews and things like that.”