A firefighting class offered at Berlin High School a few years ago has been on hiatus due to staffing changes. But a new version of the program, modeled on the Firefighter I level certification course, has taken its place.
“This course is intended to give the students a detailed view of the careers available in the fire service and teach them some of the skills involved with serving as a firefighter,” said instructor Andrew Cooke, a firefighter with the City of Norwich for the past 11 years and a Fire Service Instructor with the Middlesex County Fire School.
The BHS course is offered to juniors and seniors during the spring semester.
“Some of the students are active cadet members in the Berlin Fire Department and can take the information they learn in this program back and apply it in their service,” Cooke said. “However, none of the students are expected to be active members in the FD. They are only gaining exposure in the classroom.”
The program is a mix of lectures and skill-based lessons, and students take field trips to local fire departments and training centers to see what a career in the fire service entails.
“Our instructors hope to provide an avenue for other students to join the local fire departments and understand the pathways for becoming a firefighter after high school if they are interested in that as a career option,” Cooke said.
Course topics include firefighter safety and health, communication, investigations, and much more.
BHS technology teacher Laura Kulpa assists the class. “My role is to support the firefighters within the classroom,” Kulpa said. “I take care of the logistics, like attendance, inputting grades, and paperwork for field trips.”
Currently, the class has 15 students.
“The success of this class is only possible through the dedication of multiple other fire service instructors making themselves available to the classroom and partner teacher in the Tech Department at BHS,” Cooke said.
“Our instructors partner with teacher Laura Kulpa, who facilitates the field trips, resources, and manages the learning curriculum for the school system. She serves as the vital link between the fire service and the school system and is an integral part of the program's success.”
The other fire instructors include: Jason Swan — Firefighter, South Fire District; Eric Fischl — Firefighter, Thompsonville Fire Department (Enfield); Gerry Pagan — Lieutenant, Hartford Fire Department; and Brian Petrucelli — Captain, Meriden Fire Department.
In addition to the instructors, the course relies on the Berlin Fire Department to provide equipment and resources.
“We work with liaisons in the fire department to arrange for apparatus and equipment to be brought on-site to the high school during class time so that the students have an opportunity to put their hands on real firefighting equipment and learn skills,” Cooke said.