Officials from Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue and the Wellington High School Fire Science Academy, including both former and current cadets, gathered at Wellington High School on Wednesday, Aug. 9 to decommission a fire engine, retiring it and passing it along to the academy as a vehicle for training and teaching.
After everyone gathered around the vehicle, PBCFR Capt. Mark Davis, lead instructor and Palm Beach State College’s fire education program teacher, had the high school graduates now working on their state certification wet down the vehicle. Then, current cadets wiped it down and touched the vehicle. Finally, it was pushed back a few feet, to signify that it now has a new home at Wellington High School.
“In a standard ceremony, there is normally a bay, and the firefighters push the new engine into the bay,” Davis explained. “It’s like christening a boat… it now becomes part of our family.”
After the ceremony, PBCFR Battalion Chief William Rowley handed WHS Principal Mario Crocetti the key to the engine.
“Fire-Rescue has a very long tradition on how they decommission fire trucks, and it was just awesome today to be part of that process, to have our cadets — current, and those who have graduated — be here to actually be a part of decommissioning an engine,” Crocetti said.
The engine’s donation to the school was formally approved by the Palm Beach County Commission on Tuesday, Aug. 15. With the addition, WHS now has two apparatus pieces, the new vehicle and a 1970 ladder truck that goes up 100 feet.
The engine came from Wellington’s own PBCFR Station 27. While its days in active service may be over, it will still play a crucial role.
“Without this equipment, we can’t get the cadets job-ready,” Davis said.
The partnership between PBSC and WHS, he explained, includes many protocols and academic policies that are tied together.
“There are a lot of academics we have to follow between the Department of Education, the Florida State Fire College, the Wellington Fire Science Academy and Palm Beach State College,” Davis added. “Without being able to pull a hose or pump at 130 psi, they can’t be job-ready, or what we call state-certified ready. Tenth, 11th and 12th grade here at the school, we get them job-ready to go over the summer to finish their certificate, graduate from Palm Beach State College and pass the state test and be hirable, hopefully by September of their graduating year.”
After high school, students are able to begin Fire Science 2 at PBSC, and then, just a few short months later, pending passing tests, they can have a job. As a result, the training at the high school level is instrumental to accelerating their careers.
“Without this equipment, we couldn’t do what we call the cone knockdown or the fire hose simulation — it simulates an attack,” Davis said. “Without the ladder truck, we wouldn’t be able to simulate them getting on their gear and the stuff we have. So, what we did was mirror everything Palm Beach State does here, so when they get over there, in their senior year, and over the summer, they’re ready to go.”
Currently, there are approximately 90 students in the program, which is entering its fifth year. Last year, seven students graduated after completing all four years in the academy. In 2015, the first few students who entered the program as sophomores graduated, Crocetti said.
Adding a new element to the program this year is Medical Academy Instructor Lee Webster, a former WHS student.
Adding a medical component to the program, as well as newer equipment, will help the students in many ways, Webster said.
“To have a newer engine is really a godsend, because that’s really close to what they’re using out in the field now. They’ll be able to use what they learn here to transition right out into the field or fire academy,” he explained.
For current students to be able to partake in the ceremony, Webster added, allows them to feel a sense of ownership.
“It’s to keep their training up, which they will definitely need when they jump into the fire academy at Palm Beach State,” Webster said.
ABOVE: PBCFR Battalion Chief William Rowley hands the keys to WHS Principal Mario Crocetti.