Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Schuylkill County Firefighters in Training Learn Remotely

With the help of technology, Schuylkill County Firefighters in training can get back in the classroom.

Along with many other things that were shut down last March, trainees were unable to meet in person to continue their "Firefighter Essentials" course that all volunteer firefighters must take and pass to become certified.

Thanks to the technology provided with the help of County Officials, the Schuylkill County Fire Academy can continue that training.

The Schuylkill County Commissioners were able to help fund and purchase new computers, cameras, and other equipment to allow trainees to connect remotely through Zoom to the instructors in the classroom at the Academy near Frackville.

The courses that are taught at the Academy are free to all Schuylkill County's 102 volunteer fire companies.

"There isn't a student in Schuylkill County that pays for firefighter training," said Frank Zangari, President of the Schuylkill County Fire Academy.

On Tuesday night, the Essentials Level II Course was wrapping up several weeks of remote classroom learning before moving onto the hands-on portion.

The class included 35 volunteer firefighters from Pine Grove, Girardville, Muir, Deer Lake, Dauphin County, and Lebanon County.

Kevin Sibbett, from the Pennsylvania Fire Academy, instructed the course.

"We will go anywhere to accommodate training for our firefighters," Sibbet said.

Next door, in an adjacent room at the Academy, Pottsville Fire Chief Jim Misstishen was teaching the first night of the Level III Essentials class that was halted because of COVID last March. The class is continuing because of Zoom.

The demand for new volunteer firefighters in Schuylkill County is becoming higher and higher every year, partially because of the amount of time involved to become certified. With this new technology, even after the pandemic, the Academy hopes to continue to use it to reduce the amount of time training consumes.

"We have trainees that are still in high school from southern Schuylkill County. That's an hour up and back from the academy, plus the classroom time and their normal school work." Zangari said.

"This just allows us another way to get more people involved". said Schuylkill County Firefighters Association President Dave Sattizahn.

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