Warm Up to One of the Hottest Programs on Campus
Hot flames burst from open windows; a heavy door blocks the way to someone in need. Two firefighters approach the structure with caution and confidence, using an ax to force open the door. After a few minutes, they emerge from the flames covered in soot and breathing heavily, escorting a victim to safety. While this might seem like a scene from a movie, it’s an accurate description of the kind of training that Elgin Community College’s Emergency Services Program uses to prepare students for successful careers in fire science.
Jeanette Silva Haro is one of ECC’s exceptional students who is blazing a trail as she pursues her dream to serve as a firefighter. After earning her basic operations firefighter (BOF) and emergency medical technician (EMT-B) certificates last May, Haro is more than halfway through the fire science and safety program on her way to earning an Associate of Applied Science degree.
“I want to be a role model for girls and young women and the Hispanic community,” said Haro. “I believe that if you haven’t been exposed to a career like firefighting, you wouldn’t know how to pursue it. I hope that young girls can see me and know they can achieve anything they work for, and that any dream is possible. Sometimes, all you need to see is someone’s spark to start your inner flame.”
Breaking the Mold
While the average fire department is only one percent female, ECC has seen an increase in women and minorities enrolling in its program. Of the recent graduating class, 4 of 18 (22 percent) students were female. Many of these same students have been offered positions with local fire departments. For example, the Hampshire Fire Department recently hired six ECC grads, including three women—Alexis Muehleman, Laura Black, and Haro.
“It’s critical for fire departments to reflect the communities they serve to build trust in emergency service providers,” said John Fahy, senior director of academic programming and public safety training. He added that ECC’s ability to attract diverse students and deliver outstanding results has not gone unnoticed by District 509 fire departments. In fact, Fahy notes that many of ECC’s basic operations firefighter graduates, such as Eric Guerrero, have job offers from local fire departments before they officially graduate.
“ECC did a great job maintaining the curriculum and making sure we got the same caliber of training despite the pandemic-related changes,” said Guerrero, a recent grad who works for the Carpentersville Fire Department. “The team building and camaraderie ECC students have with each other is something very special.”
Fire science and safety students, such as Haro and Guerrerro, receive critical hands-on training to help them move forward in their careers, and the name Elgin Community College listed on their certificates comes with credibility. “If new hires come in from ECC, I know right away they have what it takes to become trusted members of our team,” said Guerrero.
Read the entire Fall 2020 issue of IMPACT online.