Igniting a career; The Onalaska Fire Department and Western Technical College team up to train the next generation of firefighters

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) – When you think of firefighters.. most of the time you’d think of an adult…
But the Onalaska Fire Department is looking to change that. Some high school students will soon have the opportunity to become certified firefighters.

“I know when I was in high school I wasn’t thinking too much about what I wanted to be when I grow up, but I think this is an amazing career,” said Onalaska Fire Chief Troy Gudie.

To increase interest in the career path, the Onalaska Fire Department has teamed up with Western Technical College to create a program hotter, and more hands-on than ever before.

“In our apparatus bay, they’ll be at the training tower in Sparta, and they will be basically doing a lot of the hands-on training that the fire fighters are currently doing,” said Gudie.

Students will learn to fight fire like the pros.

“They’ll experience live burns, they’ll be practicing search and rescue, and auto extraction,” said Gudie.

And the best part…

“We’re saving the students time and we’re saving the students money,” said Tyler Ludeking, K-12 Relations Specialist for Western Technical College.

The program allows high school seniors to earn college credits from Western while getting the certifications needed to work for a local fire department.

“Recruitment and retention is very important, especially in our area where we’re not seeing as many applicants for full time and part time,” said Gudie.

Students from 27 local school districts can apply for the program.

“They’ll go for about an entire semester, and then in January we’ll switch to the EMR/EMT Part 1 course,” said Ludeking.

“My hope, and our goal is to have a successful program where the students, once they finish the program, they’ll be certified as fire fighters,” said Gudie.

Firefighters that Gudie is also hoping to hire.

FOR HIGH SCHOOLERS INTERESTED IN APPLYING: FireFighter/ EMR High School Academy Application