Grants to provide funding for youth fire fighter training programs

High school juniors and seniors can earn credit toward a fire fighter certification.
High school juniors and seniors can earn credit toward a fire fighter certification.
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 3:59 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A new grant program looks to help grow the next generation of fire fighters.

On Friday, the Department of Safety and Professional Services announced the grant program. The grants of up to $25,000 are designed to help local fire departments and school -partners establish training courses geared toward high school junior and seniors.

DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim says it will take a collaborative effort to get programs like this off the ground.

“It takes everybody working together to increase the workforce, to make sure their safety issues are taken care of, and to make sure the students who are thinking about what their career might be think about the fire department,” said Secretary Crim.

She says that departments throughout the state routinely share concerns about adequate staffing, particularly in all-volunteer departments in rural areas.

The Sun Prairie Fire and Rescue already has a youth fire fighter training program in partnership with the Sun Prairie School District and Madison College.

The program allows students to meet high school graduation requirements while they earn firefighter certification. Graduates have gone on to paid an volunteer service with Sun Prairie and other area fire departments, including Madison.

Aurora Gutierrez, a La Follette High School student in the program, says it’s been an amazing experience.

“I had previously felt pretty lost in my life,” said Gutierrez. “I feel like I’ve found a new family.”

Luca Hildebrand, a program student from Verona High School, says he appreciates the hands-on learning.

“After doing the fire academy, I found out that it’s something I want to do for the rest of my life,” said Hildebrand. “I’m extremely grateful for that.”

Sun Prairie Fire and Rescue Chief Christopher Garrison says while recruitment and retention is the goal, it’s also to provide opportunities to youth in the community.

“It’s about diversity,” said Garrison. “This program has probably helped kids who would never get a high school education get that piece of paper.”

The program is open for applications, which are due February 14, 2022.

The DSPS grant program has funding to award $50,000 this year and $50,000 next year to help establish or expand similar programs in other parts of Wisconsin.

Applications and grant information about the grant program are available on the DSPS website.

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