Photo taken by Chloe Bonsen

by Chloe Bonsen

9-1-1… how can I help you? You have a fire in a building? This where the training begins Pat McVicker is one of Skagit Valley College fire program instructor.

There are many interesting things about the fire program that many people may not know. I would like to share information provided by Pat McVicker.

The Skagit Valley College Fire program takes two years for a student to complete. McVicker states that on the first day of his class, states that he is a dancer. This is an exaggeration to get his point across to new students that you can be any person you want.

This program is for any student that is interested in becoming a career firefighter.

A Career firefighter’s wages start at $50,000 a year plus benefits. The pay can be increased by location of the fire station or by the chain of command. An entry level firefighter with a paramedic degree makes more money annually than a regular entry level firefighter. Another example would be a Fire Chief makes more money annually than a Captain.

To become a career firefighter, you must have a minimum of a high school diploma and pass a physical abilities test. Fire department locally get an incentive to hire personnel from this program. This program prepares their graduates for a lifestyle of a career firefighter.

McVicker states, “Firefighters with an education have a much higher capacity of doing their jobs than those who don’t have an education.” He stressed the important of this education because those going through the program are not rushed and are properly trained in a less expensive manor than those trained out in the field.

Most of the instructors of the Skagit Valley College fire program are career firefighters. They are associated with our local fire departments which also opens the door for the students to network. Networking allows the students to have references in the field and an upper hand when interviewing.

McVicker states this is a great program to build confidence and skills. Most graduates of the program get jobs in the Seattle area. Students have gotten jobs working at Boeing, and in Hanford. A local student even got a job in Houston Texas, although most students stay in the Puget Sound area.

Through the program training includes vehicle extraction and river rescue. It is also exciting to learn to drive the fire engines and pump water. These are all part of lab days which are very interactive.

The fire program is constantly connecting what is happening in the news and in the field making it very hands on experience. The program runs as if it is a department. No one does anything alone, thus creating a tight bond.

The students are placed in companies which last the entire year. They create their own culture within the program. The program is currently accepting applications. June 12th is when registration starts for the next class. There are also 12 full ride scholarships offered to incoming freshman and even though the application period may be closed, the department may still accept and consider them.