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The high performance of two Hunt High School students put the new firefighter internship program off on the right foot.
Seniors Will Barnes and Taner Rodgers spent the last several months working alongside firefighters with the Wilson Fire/Rescue Department.
“In order to implement a successful firefighter internship program, it was extremely important to have approval from the Wilson Fire/Rescue Services, along with their involvement in working with the Wilson County Schools Internship Program,” said Jimmie Lucas, work based learning coordinator with Wilson County Schools.
“By doing so, student interns are allowed to gain firsthand knowledge and experience of procedures and operations within the fire station, and more importantly, what requirements are necessary in becoming a firefighter. ”
Deputy Chief Michael Sumner, Wilson Fire/Rescue Services, said the internship gave Will and Taner the opportunity to see what this job is all about and what it takes to do the job of a firefighter.
“I think they have come a long way,” Sumner said. “I think they have grown a lot maturity-wise being able to work side-by-side with some of our firefighters on shift. They have gotten to know what this job is truly about, inside the station and out.”
Sumner said in this last part of their internship program, the interns were able to ride the engines and respond to calls.
“They have done a tremendous job,” said Sarah O’Briant, hiring and recruiting at Wilson Fire/Rescue Services. “Both of them work hard. They are able to train with the crews. They are not able to get into live fire or any hazardous stuff. They have to go by the state guidelines of what they can and can’t do. These two guys, they have set the bar high for incoming interns.”
O’Briant said the interns developed a six-page standard operating procedure for the program that will be the template for future interns.
Both of the young men are considering firefighting as a career, though Taner plans to pursue a degree in landscape management at North Carolina State University before returning to Wilson to go through the fire academy.
Lucas said the important thing to remember is that the program is doubling in size from two interns this year to four interns next year.
“As a result of these two young men and what they did, it has provided the same opportunity for others,” Lucas said. “We have doubled our enrollment.”
“Hopefully, with the internship, it will turn into an employment position for them as well,” O’Briant said of Will and Taner.
“I have really been impressed with the attitude and the commitment that these two young men have,” Lucas said. “It has been remarkable the enthusiasm they bring to the workplace when they go to the fire station. Not only have they done the typical hours with the internship, they have going beyond and worked after school and weekends and worked at some of the events that we have had in the community.”
“Being a firefighter is something that has always been in the back of my mind since I was a little kid,” Taner said. “My dad and granddad used to volunteer, so I started gaining a big interest in it.”
“Since the day we started, I fell in love with it.”
Taner said being in the fire service is demanding mentally and physically.
“You need to learn as much as you can about being a firefighter and everything they do, from EMS calls to rescues, all the way to structure firefighting,” Taner said, “It’s a dangerous job, but you can never train too much for a job that can kill you.”
Being a firefighter is a family thing for Will.
“I’ve had family members that were firemen, and two of them retired from here at Wilson Fire/Rescue as captains, so I’ve been around it my whole life,” Will said.
Participating in the program gave Will a clearer picture of what it is like to be a firefighter.
“It has showed me how it’s more that just putting out fires or helping people out of wrecked cars,” Will said. “Wilson has a wide variety of things that they do for the community such as fire responders, trench rescue and water rescue.”
Both interns said it is important for young people to get practical experience with working professionals.
“They say practice makes perfect, and going over all of the things and being a part of the day-to-day activities gives you a better sense and more knowledge and skills as to what you will need to do in the service,” Will said. “It helps you become less of a greenhorn, so to speak.”