Fire protection internships benefit students

It took a few years to get the Fire Protection Tech internship program underway, but it took just a few months of service in the Town of Beloit Fire Department for three Blackhawk Technical College students to reap the benefits.

Students Randall Stanek, Casey Bellard and Cameron Hanson already were members of the department, but the three-credit internship for second-year, second-semester Fire Protection Technician students took them a step beyond their previous experiences.

“I learned more fire suppression tactics, how to better conduct and lead an EMS call, how to better communicate during an emergency, and how the life of a career firefighter is conducted on a day-to-day basis at the station and in my personal life,’’ Stanek wrote in an end-of-semester paper summarizing the internship.

Dave Peterson, the BTC Fire Services Training Coordinator, couldn’t ask for anything more from the first time the internship was in play.

“This is a great way to learn on the job,’’ Peterson explained. “I think students are always surprised to find out what they can learn in a program like this.’’

Now that the internship program has settled administrative issues involved in its enactment such as student insurance, Peterson is looking to expand it to more district fire departments and, most important, more BTC students in the Fire Protection program.

The internship is designed to introduce students to the day-to-day work life and culture in the fire service. Under the supervision of department officials, interns are involved not only in responses to fire and medical emergencies, but in maintenance of equipment, public relations, fire prevention and other organizational activities.

The internship is designed to cover 432 hours, which equals 18 24-hour shifts or approximately one shift per week per semester. Prerequisites to qualify for an internship are Fire Fighting Principles, Haz Mat Awareness and Ops, and EMT Fundamentals and Applications or Emergency Med Tech/EMT-B.

Stanek noted that a full-time department employee doesn’t merely fill time waiting for the next emergency call. “They are out in public doing inspections, talking to the general public, getting supplies for the station,’’ he said.

The three BTC interns worked under the direction of Town of Beloit Fire Chief Gene Wright, who also serves as a BTC Fire Science and EMT instructor.

With the success of this pilot internship, Peterson is looking forward to expanding opportunities for more students in more departments. Stanek’s evaluation of the program indicated its value.

“This is an amazing opportunity that offers much more than three credits toward your degree,’’ Stanek said. “This creates lifelong friendships, irreplaceable references and it is a great resume builder for anybody even remotely interested in pursuing a career in the fire service.’’

BTC students interested in this or any internship should contact Kerry Osmond, the BTC Internship Coordinator, at kosmond1@blackhawk.edu. Current Fire Protection Technician students and those potential students considering the fire service field also may contact Peterson at dpeterson38@blackhawk.edu.

This piece was written by Vic Feuerherd, the Public Relations Specialist at Blackhawk Technical College. You can contact Vic at vfeuerherd@blackhawk.edu or at (608) 757-6322.