It takes heart: Firefighter to teach students

Published 2:00 am Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Branden Barlow, above, is ready to begin a new career teaching students to be firefighters.

Branden Barlow, above, is ready to begin a new career teaching students to be firefighters.

Leaving high school ready to work used to mean you had a job flipping burgers or bagging groceries. But, with the inception of a new program at the Escambia Career Readiness Center (formerly the Escambia-Brewton Career Technical Center) that idea has a whole new meaning.

Branden Barlow, a long-time member of the Brewton Fire Department team, will be taking over the teaching responsibilities for the new class offered at the center. The Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security cluster of courses at the center will focus on pathway courses in fire science and emergency management training, officials said.

ECRC principal, David Lanier, said the new program will allow students to leave the center with a career track already in place.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity,” Lanier said. “This is the first year that the Alabama Fire College has partnered with the Alabama Department of Education, and it will make a huge difference for the students interested in that line of work. When they complete the two-year course here, they will leave here and go directly into employment.”

Barlow said the chance to give students a new look at career opportunities is both exciting and frightening at the same time.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to do something that is bigger than I am,” Barlow said. “It’s going to be an adjustment and I’m a little nervous. I’ve never been a teacher in a classroom other than the youth group at church.”

Lanier said he is pleased to add Barlow to the staff at the center since he came highly recommended by respected people in the business of fire fighting.

“I met with East Brewton Fire Chief Joey Shell, Brewton Fire Chief Lawrence Weaver and Flomaton Fire Chief Steve Stanton about this program, and they all recommended Branden for the job,” Lanier said. “When you have the support of three departments in your area for a particular individual, that says a lot.”

With Barlow in place at the center, Lanier said students are being introduced to the program for the first time. “

We had a short time frame to work on the schedule and course work,” Lanier said. “But, we have gotten in touch with principals and counselors at the area schools to let them know about changing some schedules for students interested in the class. We’ve already gotten a lot of interest in the class from students. The word is out and once school gets started, we hope to increase enrollment in the course.”

Barlow said he is eager to teach students the art of firefighting and offer them an opportunity to work in a job they love.

“Being a firefighter is not for everybody,” Barlow said. “Firefighting is an inherently dangerous job and this will be evident in the class. It takes heart to do this job. If this is for them and this is what they want, we’re going to give them that chance through this class.”

Barlow said students who complete the coursework and training in the program will be certified at the end of their time at the center.

“When a student finishes the class, they will be tested by Alabama Fire College instructors,” Barlow said. “If they are 18 and pass the test, they will be certified at the Firefighter I level. With an additional five-week course at the Alabama Fire College, that certification can move on up to Firefighter II level. The first level of certification makes a person eligible to fight fires with a volunteer fire department. At level II, they are certified to go to work at any fire department. In our area, we have Brewton, East Brewton, Poarch Creek Indians and Atmore fire departments that will need certified firefighters. That means there are plenty of options for graduates of this course.”

Barlow said the classroom on Pea Ridge Road will be conducted just like a firehouse. “I want to be able to put a student in the position to go on to Fire College and be hired in this county and make the fire chief happy,” Barlow said. “I want to give them what they need to be successful in the books, on the drill field and in life.”