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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Old truck teaches new tricks

Friday, October 28, 2011

Within a week of beginning their Firefighting 1 course at J. Everett Light Career Center, students begin learning how to operate a fire engine on the Greencastle Fire Department's old Engine No. 4. Above, Christopher Tyler and Tyler Callahan operate the hoses as Chief Jeff Hayes instructs their classmates on the operation of the engine's control panel. [Order this photo]
INDIANAPOLIS -- When Chief Jeff Hayes, firefighting instructor at J. Everett Light Career Center, found his program without an engine last year, he needed a solution.

"You can't learn about fighting fires from a book," Hayes said.

The old engine was in need of $9,000 in repairs -- money simply not in the program's budget. However, it also happened that the City of Greencastle had a 1971 Mac diesel fire engine it was no longer using.

For $5,000, Engine No. 4 left the service of Greencastle and traveled the 60 miles to the north side of Indianapolis. Now a group of teenage firefighting students have a chance to learn the profession on an engine more than twice their age.

While the technology may lag behind that of most modern departments, Hayes doesn't mind. The 40-year-old truck can still help them learn about operating the pump, hoses, nozzles and deck gun, among other things.

As one pupil points out, firefighting students quickly learn the job is not "just go out and grab a hose and shoot water every day." Students Christopher Tyler and Briahna Campbell take part in some of the less fun activities as they prepare to put away one of the hoses of Greencastle's old Engine No. 4.
"The basics are the basics," Hayes said. "You don't have to have a $300,000 or $400,000 truck to learn that."

And so it is that within a week of beginning JEL's firefighting course, high schoolers with no experience at all are operating the same panels, levers and valves that Greencastle firefighters used for almost four decades.

It's an exciting proposition for students accustomed to listening to lectures and operating pencils and paper.

"Instead of sitting in class learning about a truck, you're out there working on a truck," said Zionsville High School student Mitchell Schubert. "We haven't been around a modern truck, so that one's just as cool as any."

The program is one of nine of its kind in the state. Housed on the north side of Indianapolis, next door to North Central High School, the career center is open to students from 10 high schools in three counties -- Marion (North Central, Pike), Boone (Lebanon, Western Boone, Zionsville) and Hamilton (Carmel, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville, Sheridan, Westfield).

Going beyond the urban schools and into some of the more rural schools makes Hayes happy, as he know the students can make an immediate impact on volunteer fire departments.

"These guys get a lot of training for coming here," he said.

Upon completing the course, students are certified in Firefigher 1 and 2, community emergency response teams, CPR, first aid, hazmat awareness and operations, weapons of mass destruction training and National Incident Management 100, 200 and 700.

"When they walk out of here they have a pretty nice portfolio to offer the department," Hayes said.

The class also offers the students a taste of the responsibility, leadership skills and discipline they will need to make the next step in the profession.

While in class, students are always in uniform with one of three class-issued shirts, dress pants and dress shoes. They also refer to Hayes as either "Chief" or "Sir," answer questions with "Yes, sir," or "No sir," and stand at attention when a guest enters the room.

Less than a month into the course, the students were also asked to elect officers. While Hayes gave them a list of qualities for a good officer, for Western Boone student Mitchell Mills, it came down to one simple question.

"Who would we trust with our lives in a fire?" Mills said.

In talking with one of the officers they elected, one gets the impression that entering the emergency service field is not a decision these students take lightly.

"I just wanted to help out in some way -- like on 9/11, all those people who lost their lives cannot be forgotten," said vice president Dakoda Bryson, a Western Boone junior.

Through the program, an old piece of apparatus is also not forgotten. Instead, Greencastle's old Engine No. 4 lives on, helping educate a new generation of America's Bravest.

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