When veteran firefighter Mark Brood agreed to do a presentation on volunteer firefighting at Pocatello High School in 2015, he had no idea where it would lead.
“Right after my presentation, I got hauled down to the principal’s office,” said Brood. “Lisa (Delonas) told me they had a first responder academy, but they didn’t have an EMT or a fire component. She asked if I would be interested in helping get it up and running. I guess it was a case of being in the right place at the right time.”
In his 29 years in the fire service, Brood had trained a lot of new firefighters, so he was up for the challenge. As an active fire chief with the North Bannock Fire Department, he could also rely on his industry connections to establish the program. Fortunately, Brood received much support from Superintendent Dr. Douglas Howell, the school board, the school district, and the fire community. Throughout Eastern Idaho, donations poured in, including turnouts (the protective gear worn by firefighters) from the city of Chubbuck, various equipment from the city of Pocatello, and fire hoses from the Idaho Falls Fire Department.
One of the reasons the community rallied around the program is the growing need for first responders and the fact that so many small communities in Idaho rely on the service of volunteer firefighters.
“In these communities, shopkeepers, farmers, ranchers, and neighbors just drop whatever they’re doing when the bell rings and hop on the fire truck as it goes by,” said Rhonda Naftz, career technical education administrator for School District No. 25. “It’s like training them to fulfill their civic duty. This CTE program can bring this service to smaller communities.”
The Pocatello/Chubbuck School District renovated a building to house the career technical school program and purchased a retired fire engine using Perkins funds. Brood built all the other props necessary for the program, so it was ready to accept its first students when the 2016-2017 school year began.
“When you walk into the classroom, I wanted it to feel like you were walking into a fire department,” said Brood. “I teach to International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) standards. We start each class with the textbook and didactics, then get into the skill work. We try to do everything just like in a fire department, including breaking the class into three platoons, each with its own captain.”
Every day, Brood’s students go through all the equipment to make sure it’s ready and even participate in timed drills, like putting on all their gear in under three minutes. Just like in a real fire department, they have competitions to see which platoon finishes first. Students also can assist on calls, do a ride-along and practice practical skills towards the end of the program.
Everything about the program is designed to ensure students are prepared to be first responders upon graduation. For example, Brood follows the Candidate Physical Ability Test curriculum, the recognized standard for measuring an individual’s ability to handle the physical demands of being a firefighter. Also, all students earn the National Heart Association CPR for Healthcare Providers certification. Finally, most students take the firefighting course as juniors and the EMT course as seniors because most fire departments require EMT certification.
Upon completion, students have received training to earn their IFSAC and National Wildfire Coordinating Group certifications in Hazardous Materials, Extrication, and Wildland Fire. Students still have to take the industry test, which involves the use of a specialized burn trailer. Students need to be 18 and graduated from high school to complete this component; this activity is usually completed the summer following graduation.
As proof of Brood’s students’ achievements, the SkillsUSA chapter he advises swept the podium during the 2019* state competition. After graduation, many of the students begin their careers with municipal or volunteer fire departments, the Bureau of Land Management, or the U.S. Forest Service, and one student went on to graduate from the Idaho Police Officer Standards Training.