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Arizona fire school starting to see enrollment rebound from recession

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Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014

By Mackenzie Scott


SIERRA OSHRIN/CRONKITE NEWS: Firefighter training suffered around the state during the recession. But now, as Mackenzie Scott reports, rural departments are finding ways to get their people to the Valley for important lessons.

LACEE GUNDERSON/VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER: It’s amazing being here. It’s a different opportunity, it’s very different.

MACKENZIE SCOTT/CRONKITE NEWS: Volunteer firefighter Lacee Gunderson is one of 729 students enrolled in this year’s annual Arizona State Fire School. It offers a range of classes from vehicle to fire leadership training. Sierra Vista Fire Chief Randy Redmond has been attending the school for more than 30 years and is devoted to making it possible for people to experience the school.

RANDY REDMOND/SIERRA VISTA FIRE CHIEF: We formed the Arizona Fire Fighters Foundation and that foundation is designed specifically to get our rural and small department members of this state into fire school.

MACKENZIE SCOTT/CRONKITE NEWS: The annual Arizona State Fire School gives firefighters across Arizona training they would otherwise never receive. Firefighters like Gunderson, who is one of over 90 who are attending the school on scholarship

LACEE GUNDERSON/VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER: We don’t have money, and having this opportunity is awesome. I work two jobs and I wouldn’t be able to send myself here, so we are very grateful.

MACKENZIE SCOTT/CRONKITE NEWS: A member of the Arizona State Fire Training Committee, Fire Chief Mark Gaillard says the school is starting to see its numbers go back up.

MARK GAILLARD/FIRE CHEIF: Prior to the recession, this school housed as many as over 1,000 students, so we are seeing that climb back up and hopefully that is the sign of the economy and that funds are more available for training.

MACKENZIE SCOTT/CRONKITE NEWS: For Gunderson, who volunteers for a small fire department in Payson, she hopes to make firefighting a full-time job.

LACEE GUNDERSON/VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER: Being able to help people is what I do it for. We are the last people, last person people want to see, but when they are there they really need us and it’s a great feeling of “Hey, I helped you” or “Hey, let me help you.”

SIERRA OSHRIN/CRONKITE NEWS: This is the largest class for the fire school since 2009.