ANDERSON, SC (WSPA) – It’s a problem across the nation, firefighters retiring and without enough younger reinforcements to fill the gaps, but a new program with new resources could be helping to build a new pool of volunteers.
“My dad, he was a firefighter for 25.5 years and I thought that was pretty cool and I seen the trucks because I lived 0.7 miles from the station so I always wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes,” said Devan Charping who’s a student at Pendleton High School.
That curiosity is what led Charping to sign up for a new program at Anderson Institute of Technology. The program teaches the students hands on skills to become firefighters that was never offered to students in Districts 3, 4 and 5 before this year.
“I’d have to go to the training center in Anderson and take another course during the summer on my own time whereas now I can get it fixed into my schedule at school,” Charping said.
This semester there are 21 students now learning the ropes to help fill a growing gap.
“In an area that we are having trouble getting people involved and if we can get them at a young age and instill the passion they will stay for many years,” said Mike Benoir who’s the instructor at AIT.
Benoir said the average age of volunteer firefighters in the county is about 50 and as they age out, they need the next generation to step up. Along with this program, Grove Fire Department donated a truck to the class to help prepare them for the real experience.
“It shows they are vested in what we are doing and seeing those students come out of here and go to their stations or other stations in the community,” Benoir said.