Lots of young boys imagine themselves becoming firefighters when they grow up, but Providence High School graduate Bryson Estridge will make his dream a reality.
Estridge participated in a weeklong summer training program, provided by the Charlotte Fire Department, where he learned about key components to firefighting. He didn’t know much about firefighting at the time, other than he wanted to learn more.
“I wanted to get serious about firefighting and work toward it,” he said. “The more I do it, the more I like it.”
The training session taught Estridge about different safety and rescue techniques. The department also recreated potential scenarios for the trainees to practice in and learn from.
“We were put in full gear on a hot summer day and asked to go into the fire building where there was a smoke machine and a simulation of a fire,” Estridge said. “It was neat to be able to actually do it myself and see what it was like.”
The summer session encouraged Estridge to take a firefighter technology course the next year at Providence, and he and a handful of other students were part of the inaugural launch of the curriculum. The program is a statewide partnership between the office of the state fire marshal, local fire departments and school districts in an effort to accommodate career interests in firefighting.
“We had student requests from both Providence and Butler because of the proximity of both schools to volunteer fire departments,” Jimmy Chancey, director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’s Career and Technical Education Department, said. “In rural areas, students will see mostly volunteer fire programs, so there is a keener awareness there.”
Kelvin Brim, a state-certified fire instructor and a captain at the Charlotte Fire Department, taught the fire technology courses with the department supplying the equipment, including hands-on access to a fully functional fire truck.
The Firefighter I and II course topics include fire prevention and cause, fire hose practices and personal fire protective gear, with most of the classroom time including hands-on experience. Chancey said the curriculum mirrors Charlotte Fire Department’s firefighter program at its academy.
The students learn how to use fire protective equipment in a real-life scenario. Brim filled up a trailer with smoke from a manmade smoke machine and then asked the equipped students to attempt to find “victims” in one real-life scenario.
“Once they have completed the course, they still have to do a live burn test (to receive North Carolina firefighter certification),” Brim added.
Brim is confident his students have the credentials and knowledge to go out into the field and get hired, and seven out of the nine students who participated in the program plan to test with the Charlotte Fire Department in the coming months, he added. Estridge is one of those seven.
But there’s still a journey to undertake before he accomplishes his goal, Estridge said. The process may take six months to a year before he can officially become a Charlotte firefighter. Candidates must take North Carolina’s firefighter certification exam as well as a CPAT (Candidate Physical Agility Test). Then, candidates will undergo multiple background checks and lie detector tests. Once hired, the firefighter will attend a six-month-long recruit school and then will be assigned to a station.
Although the requirements are long, the graduate said he still feels the position is a privilege he’s willing to work for.
“Firefighters are pretty much everywhere,” Estridge said. “They are the first responders, whether it’s medical emergencies, fires or car accidents. Firefighters will always be there and are always there to help.
“… I am most excited for, if I get hired and make it through recruit school, my first day at the station and getting to go out on the truck on my first assignment – I don’t care what it is. I just want to experience the excitement of knowing all my hard work paid off.”
Estridge will attend Central Piedmont Community College in the fall to continue his fire technology studies.