Firefighting students at St. Clair go into the hall at the bell

·3 min read
The pre-service firefighting program at St. Clair College has a fire hall for students to use now. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)
The pre-service firefighting program at St. Clair College has a fire hall for students to use now. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)

Students in the pre-service firefighting program at St. Clair College now have a hall of their own.

The two-bay fire station on Cabana Road used to be Station 5 for Windsor Fire & Rescue Services and was shuttered in 2014 when a new station came into use.

Earlier this year, the college bought the property and got it ready for students in the one-year program.

Windsor Chief Stephen Laforet said having a real fire hall will only make the program a better place for prospective firefighters to learn.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

"Firefighting is like most trade professions where you learn the most by having the tools in your hands and using them as much as you can," Laforet said in a news release.

"Now they have a good facility on hand which puts vehicles, ladders and tools at their fingertips to work on and train with. So I think this provides the students an opportunity to have a good facility to train out of and it brings them to the equipment more than they would have had before."

Laforet also said the new hall may help bring more people to the program.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Athena Dimario Done said she wanted to get into firefighting because she wanted to do something she'd never done before.

"I'm kind of an adrenaline junkie as well so I thought it would be fun to step out of my comfort zone and go for something that many people aspire to be and be a role model for other young girls and boys in the community."

She's also one of a growing number of women joining the program in recent years.

"I think many girls think about doing it, but they don't because they're intimidated by the guys, but they're honestly treating me as an equal, treat the other girls in the program as equal," she said.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

And for women thinking about taking on firefighting as a profession she had a message.

"To not be afraid to achieve your goals, to stay strong and be independent, and just step out of your comfort zone and continue to prove people wrong because anyone can do this profession," she said.

"As long as you work hard and you're strong, you got this."

'Help people'

For student Michael Graber, the draw to firefighting has been about others.

"I want to serve my community, help people, protect, educate," he said.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Graber said the program has been a good mix of in-class and hands-on training, and the new hall is just a bonus.

"They're definitely keeping us in shape with the physical aspects of it. Not to mention the theory that they throw in — theory of, you know, fire and the science behind it, and they teach us a lot about teamwork," he said.

"I did not expect the facilities they would have for us. I didn't expect us to have our very own fire hall."

'Dream come true'

Program co-ordinator Steve Appleyard, who served as a local firefighter for 29 years and has been teaching with the program since 1999, said he tried to prepare students for any eventuality.

It's like a dream come true to me to be able to be a part of this. — Antonio Di Cocco

"We have both classroom and practical aspects of it, so the roughly 50-50, we go through evolutions and try to make them as realistic as possible," he said.

"Then the more advanced they get, then the more complicated their evolutions will get. So we'll try to mimic something they would run into on the job in our labs."

Once completed, students in the program have to complete a test that would qualify them to work anywhere in the U.S. or Canada.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

For Antonio Di Cocco, all the hard work will be worth it.

"I've always wanted to be a firefighter and it's like a dream come true to me to be able to be a part of this."

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