NCTC’s Emergency Services division, devoted to training a new generation of first responders in careers like firefighting and emergency medical services, is in the midst of a rapid expansion that directly mirrors the incredible growth of North Texas and its host of sprawling communities. Answering the call of the area’s population explosion — and the resulting need for emergency personnel — NCTC launched its first dual credit firefighter program two years ago, opening a fire academy at Lake Dallas High School in Corinth.
Next came fire academies at high schools in the Lewisville ISD, Denton ISD and Valley View ISD, and two more fire academies will come online this fall — in Little Elm ISD and Gainesville ISD. Except for Valley View’s fire academy, which excludes the EMT component, all of these are two-year programs for high school juniors and seniors.
“Fire service is an extremely competitive field,” says Strider Floyd, NCTC’s Emergency Services division chair. “The training is so specialized and our surrounding communities are growing so fast, it’s created a real shortage and a big demand for firefighters and emergency medical personnel. We’ve really had to bump up our efforts in response.”
NCTC employs career firefighters as its dual credit instructors, and the innovative program gives students a direct pathway into fire service and the training they need to apply for jobs right out of high school. John Bryant, lead instructor at Lake Dallas High School’s fire academy, also works as a driver/engineer with the Lake Cities Fire Department, and says other instructors involved with the dual credit program hail from Lake Cities or the Highland Village and Sanger fire departments. Current enrollment numbers for these dual credit fire academies range from nine students in Valley View ISD’s one-year program to 17 at the Lewisville location.
Operating fire academies at multiple high school campuses is “logistically challenging,” says Floyd, but the program got a real boost with the recent purchases of two fire engines, courtesy of Carl D. Perkins grant monies and NCTC funds.
“We got our first truck in February 2018, and our second one came in this February,” Floyd says. “And the Perkins grant allowed us to purchase an ambulance as well.”
The vehicles are an important component of the hands-on skills training, allowing students real world experience with the environment and safety protocols of firefighting.