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Fire district donation helps students get edge in job market

By Staff | Nov 29, 2008

ANDREA GALABINSKI Chief Larry Nisbet, pictured with Fire Academy’s Mick Whitewood and some of his students, received a plaque in recognition of their donation from the district.

A recent donation by the Bayshore Fire District will give Lee County students who aspire to be firefighters a big edge in today’s competitive job market.
The Bayshore Fire Protection & Rescue Service District recently donated a fire truck to Lee County Schools, a “win-win” situation, according to Chief Larry Nisbet.
The district recently received a new pumper as part of a grant to better serve the area. The new truck, equipped, roughly comes to about $400,000, with the district only having to put in about $80,000 because of the grant.
“This is a program where FEMA and Department of Homeland Security awards grants,” Nisbet said. “One of the stipulations was that the truck we intended to replace had to be donated to a training center or facility or had to be scrapped out. It came to our attention that the Lee County School District did not have a pumper that they were utilizing for their firefighter program in the high schools. They do it at Ida Baker High School, South Fort Myers High School and East Lee County High School.”
This week, the district donated its old pumper to the schools.
Mick Whitewood, who oversees the fire academy at Ida S. Baker High School, was extremely happy with the donation.
“Students can get trained and certified in high school in Firefighter I, and get their state certificate and then take their state test when they graduate,” he said.
It will truly give the students an edge, Whitewood said.
He said he has a lot of students interested in careers as firefighters.
“I have 82 students at Ida Baker currently enrolled in the classes,” he said. “It’s doubled since last year and will probably double again next year. The interest in it is phenomenal.”
When the grant issue first came up, the chief said he talked to several local fire instructors and then went to his Fire Board of Commissioners.
“We decided we would donate it for their use, so they would have a truck to train with,” Whitewood said. “I started off in a high school firefighters program myself in Cincinnati, Ohio, so I can attest to the importance of getting a good foundation and a good understanding. So when these kids come out of these programs and graduate high school, instead of them having to enter a fire academy for 16 weeks, now they only have to go for eight weeks. That’s because they’ve already have the first part of the basics done, and they are ahead of the game. They’re well prepared for a firefighter job, and it gets them in the job market at a younger age.”
Tracy Hansen, Fire Commission chairman of the board, was 100 percent behind the donation and its benefits.
“We’re trying to help with education, we’ve done this before with fireman’s gear and other equipment,” he said. “This is not only going to benefit the schools, but benefit us as we get new firefighters on the line, people in place.”
“This is an opportunity for the students to have their own firetruck, maintain it and take pride in it. It gives us the chance to do things we haven’t done before,” Whitewood added. “The whole thing is phenomenal.”