Killeen: High schoolers encouraged to enroll in fire academy

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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) The Killeen Fire Department needs firefighters and its chief is encouraging area high school students to enter the Killeen ISD’s Fire Academy.

(Photo by Alex Cano)

In 2002, the Killeen ISD became one of the first school districts in Texas to offer fire academy courses for juniors and seniors.

“When they complete the program they come out and are certified firefighters in the state of Texas," Killeen Fire Chief Brian Brink said.

Brink is trying to fill vacancies in the department now, but says it has proven to be a challenge.

"Our test is a little bit difficult,” he said.

“Apparently we haven't been able to get enough certified people on board and we are looking to maybe making some modifications to the testing material,” Brink said.

That is why he’s encouraging the new generation to enroll in the fire academy classes at the Killeen High school.

Many who graduated went on to work for the department including Capt. Marcus Stillwell.

"Luckily, I got hired after grafting high school and I started working for the Killeen Fire Department," Stillwell said.

He’s been with the Killeen Fire Department for 11 years.

“You learn all the basic firefighting principles and skills things like extinguishing fires, ventilation (and) handling hazardous materials,” he said.

He says the academy helped jump-start his career and Ellison High school senior Jessica Shoemaker is hoping it will do the same for her.

"It’s a lot of book training because they want to know we know the knowledge before taking us out of the field," Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker is a full-time student with a job and says it hasn’t been easy.

"The EMT portion is hard,” she said.

“You're basically trying to become a registered nurse.”

She encourages others to join the program.

“I do let them know it’s rigorous physically and mentally it is demanding too," Shoemaker said.