JASPER, Texas — Across the country, there's a shortage of volunteer firefighters, and departments in Southeast Texas are feeling the pinch.
Several agencies in the region are coming together to create a firefighter training course, hoping to inspire a new generation of firefighters.
“It's an academy course taught as a dual credit course. Junior and senior year students will have the opportunity to take the course. It's a two-year course, and it involves the firefighter training to a Texas commission on fire protection certification level, as well as EMT training, emergency medical technician to a state level,” said Beech Grove Fire Chief James Gunter.
This course is already taught at several high schools in Texas. Gunter said the partnership with Jasper ISD will bring the program to Jasper High School and other places like Burkeville, Newton, Kirbyville, Spurger, and Woodville.
“I think it's important to give our students another method to receive an industry-based certification. It gives them multiple options out of high school,” said Superintendent Jasper ISD John Seybold. “For a rural area like this, it's great they have different options, and they'll be able to pursue different tracks, and they can have that fire certification, and go on to work a good career, a good paying career.”
Before the course can be offered, they needed a place to train. So, Jasper city leaders have approved 18 acres of land for a new training facility.
The city approved it in the late 90’s, but because of different projects and financial struggles, it was put on hold. This year, ESD #4 has proposed an increase on sales and use tax on recent ballots to get the job done.
“We were able to successfully pass this this past go around, and that permits extra funding to come into the ESD to help subsidize additional measures this most recent funding is going permit us and give us the confidence to help fund the construction of the facility,” Chris Lanier board member ESD #4
The Jasper Economic Development Corporation will also pitch in awarding students scholarships and helping to pay for equipment. Jasper officials said it's all about paying it forward.
An investment in the next generation is an investment in the community. If all goes well the program will be inside of Jasper County schools by the fall of 2022.
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