FAIRBANKS, Alaska - As part of their effort to teach our next generation of firefighters, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Fire Science program is training students by placing them in local departments. Students are learning more than just academics, they're learning how to save lives. Joseph Ferlauto is just one of the many students enrolled in the university's Fire Science program. He is paid by the university to be a student firefighter. He is also a resident firefighter at the Ester Volunteer Fire Department.
"Last Saturday I actually responded to somebody's house, and I put out a car fire in their yard," he said, speaking on his experience in the program.
At the Steese Volunteer Fire Department, Erika Padilla is also enrolled in the program and works as a scholarship firefighter. She has been working as a full time employee and student for a little over a year.
“Within the first two months of me working here, I was already driving the ambulance. This is my dream job. I love it,” she said.
Chena and Goldstream both offer scholarship firefighter positions as well. At the Fairbanks Fire Department, there is at least one intern on shift every day, working roughly 50 hours per semester. Assistant Fire Chief Ron Templeton, said the department accepts most of its interns from the paramedicine program on campus, but did have one fire prevention intern in the past.
"Most of the time when the CTC paramedic interns show up, it is their first exposure to working on an ambulance. They start working with their first patients through taking vitals," he said.
Under a new approved firefighter labor contract with the city and local firefighter union, the internship program could be expanded to accept more fire prevention interns. Responding to every call, Fairbanks' local fire and paramedic crews risk their lives every day to keep us safe.