Fire school helps firefighters continue education

Labette Community College Fire School

PARSONS, Kan. – Parsons native Seth Jones has been a firefighter at the Parsons Fire Department for about a year now. He joined after serving in the military, and says so far the training hasn’t stopped.

“You kinda get consumed with all the work, but I mean it’s all worth it,” says Jones. “It’s awesome. It becomes a lifestyle. I say it’s the best job in the world.”

That very much includes right now as he joins firefighters from 30 departments across Kansas for Labette Community College’s fire school.

“The purpose why this started was just to offer training to all different types of fireman,” explains Ross Harper, Director of Workforce at Labette Community College.

The school offers more than 20 different classes like putting out grass fires, getting through a bolted door, extracting victims from car crashes and how to run an engine at a call with a small crew.

“You learn techniques or skills or anything that you can do to still perform primary tasks like stretching a hose line or doing a primary search, forcing a door and those type of things with a very small crew,” explains Trey Nelms, an instructor at the school and District Chief for the Nashville, Tennessee Fire Department.

Now, the class doesn’t remove or circumvent the certifications that firefighters need to work at a fire house. Instead, it focuses on more specialized skills that can be useful to anyone, especially volunteer firefighters.

“A lot of those volunteers don’t have the financial backing to be able to send their firefighters to a two week long firefighter training,” explains Kenney Ward, Chief for the Parsons Fire Department. “This gives them some live training that they would never be able to get if we didn’t do this.”

It’s the 34th year for the fire school, and this year is pretty special. It’s the first time it’s been able to happen since 2019 — because of the pandemic.

“It’s a lot of work. It’s months of preparation and planning and finally getting to see it through and see it in action, that’s awesome,” says Harper. “So it’s very exciting for Labette Community College to work with these departments to offer this training.”

“It’s wonderful to see people’s smiles again. To actually be able to interact and be able to do these things,” says Ward.

As a young firefighter, Jones appreciates the opportunity to learn more so he can help save more lives — and be as effective at his job as he can be.

“Ultimately we’re responsible for a lot of these guy’s lives. When something like this happens we wanna jump all over it.”

The fire school ends on June 5th.

This is also the first year that the school has been held since a new scholarship to help pay for firefighting was started.

“One of our advisory committee members, Chief Jay Head, who has been a part of the fire school for 15 to 20 years passed away last summer of lung cancer. So Labette Community College stated an endowment fund on behalf of him,” says Ward. “So I encourage each and every person to go to Labette Community College… we’ve got to get five thousand dollars in that endowment for it to start helping young firefighters who can’t afford the training, or departments that don’t have the budget, be able to get them to a good quality training.”