Colorado’s future firefighters gathered alongside instructors from local fire departments for a flashover training simulation in Dotsero, CO. The simulation is just one piece of training that sets the Colorado Mountain College Fire Academy apart from other programs and certifications.
“Colorado Mountain College’s Fire Academy is mostly hands-on,” says Taylor DeField, an 18-year-old student from Lakewood, CO, “At the beginning of the year there was a little bit of classroom time and book work. Then we came out here and ever since we’ve been in the field. We get down and dirty.”
Taylor was drawn to a firefighting career while taking a fire science course her junior year of high school. After taking an EMT class and discovering her passion for helping people, she and her friend Julie Jacobson started searching for a comprehensive program and preparing for a career in fire safety. They enrolled together at Colorado Mountain College.
Striving to Close Gender Gaps
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only about 4 percent of firefighters nationwide are women. Fire Academy students like Taylor and Julie are helping to change that statistic.
“No matter where you go, it’s a male dominated field,” says Taylor, “We need more female firefighters, and everyone at Colorado Mountain College is very encouraging and supportive. We’re treated like family.”
Speaking from Experience
Fire Academy instructors are a diverse group of active and retired firefighters, representing five fire departments throughout the region. Their combined experience offers incredible insight to up-and-coming firefighters.
“Our instructors are all firefighters from around the mountains,” says Taylor, “Each department operates differently so it’s nice to know and learn from instructors who know what they’re doing.”
In a field like firefighting, hands-on experience from respected and established firefighters is a crucial resource for these passionate students.
“They’re not just teaching us the book answer,” says Jordan Gerlach, an 18-year-old student from Delta, CO, “Of course they want us to pass the test, but they also want to prepare us for real life. We’re prepped for how a situation is really going to play out.”
Community & Camaraderie
The Fire Academy at Colorado Mountain College Leadville offers affordable on-campus housing opportunities in a community that celebrates and supports fire service professionals. Students benefit from the college experience while building their network and expanding their firefighting skills and knowledge.
“I think what really makes it special is the camaraderie we have on campus,” says Jordan, “We’re all so close. We look out for each other.”
Most Fire Academy students, like Taylor and Jordan, are seeking their first job in the fire service. They’re presented with a variety of pathways, from volunteer service to professional firefighting career opportunities. Whether students decide to stay in Colorado or become a firefighter elsewhere, Colorado Mountain College’s Fire Academy has prepared them for success.
“I definitely want to stay in Colorado,” says Jordan, “As a firefighter, I hope to serve my communities and do what I can for society.”