Academy gives Graham students hands-on experience in fire service

GRAHAM, N.C. -- The Graham High School Fire Academy is giving students in Alamance County a head start in their quest for a career in the fire service.

Fire Academy instructor Joel Davis has more than 20 years of experience as a firefighting. He says being able to share what he has learned over those years with his students is a blessing.

But even so, Davis says there are some things you can't teach students. "You can't teach guts," he says. "You can't teach somebody to be brave. You can't teach them to have the courage to do it. It's something they have to bring to the table themselves."

But every day, he says his students prove to him they have the ability to become firefighters in the future.

For sophomore Luke Burnette, this class is his favorite.

"I love it. This is a great opportunity. Just to be able to come out with people that also like it and get more training," he said.

Like Burnette, some of the students already have experience in firefighting, volunteering as explorers at their local departments. But they say what they are learning in this class is invaluable.

"It's got the hands-on feeling of someplace you probably couldn't ever get because not everybody can go to school and climb a roof or crawl through a building or start a fire on school grounds," said Logan Tuggle.

For sophomore Austin Galiano, it's the hands-on experience that matters most.

"The training helps you to get a better understanding of what the fire is going to do and how you can prevent it and make better tactics when you are going in," he said.

Students work toward passing 21 of the 22 modules needed for the firefighter certification. The 22nd module can only be earned by fighting a live fire. According to Davis, the skills they are learning will enable them to find a job with a firefighting agency when they graduate high school.