A round of graduates came through University Park on Friday after months of training for fire sciences in the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Summer Fire Academy.
“The program has gained enough of a spotlight that we draw students from across the nation and across Alaska,” said John George, fire science program coordinator.
The academy receives 50-70 applications a year, George said, from which 31 applicants are selected. They start the academy online in June, then begin incorporating in-person training after July 4. The training goes over hands-on skills for becoming a firefighter. Although academy graduates do not receive degrees, they earn a semester’s worth of credits over a summer.
This year, 29 graduates walked into the University Park Building, 1000 University Ave., on Friday, wearing black boots and navy fire academy shirts. The group filed outside for a final inspection, where local fire chiefs shook their hands, before everyone returned inside for the ceremony in the gym.
Spencer Kastle, who stood farther back in the line of students ready to mark their completion of the academy, said it feels awesome to be graduating.
“So, this was a 12-credit course over the course of two months, and so this is the graduation for that course, and then I am going into classes starting Aug. 26,” Kastle said. He wants to pursue an associates degree in fire science, then a bachelor’s degree in emergency management.
Students who complete the academy not only earn 12 credits toward an associate degree in fire science, but afterward they also are eligible to test for the Alaska Firefighter I certification, after which firefighters will have reciprocity in 49 of the 50 states.
For example, a firefighter from Washington can be certified in Alaska, then return to Washington, turn in that certificate and be certified in Washington without the need for additional training, George said.
“So it really make our students marketable across the U.S. and with the Department of Defense,” George said.
As part of the fire science program at UAF, George said many students graduating have conditional employment with the University Fire Department, allowing them to build a working resume while going to school.
Holly Stock stood in line outside the gym doors with her fellow graduates, just minutes before all 29 were called to march in.
Stock, like Kastle, plans to attend college. She’ll be a full-time student in the fall, in addition to working full-time at the University Fire Department. She’s already earned 12 credits for graduating from the academy.
“It feels amazing,” she said.
“It’s a great accomplishment, especially being a girl and being in a man’s job. Going for that, and being able to stand out and doing it — it’s a great feeling.”
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMlocal.