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Fire Rescue trainees huddle

Programs Assure Continued Diversity of Hillsborough County's Fire Rescue Force

Fire Rescue strives to train, hire outstanding firefighters, including women, minorities, low-income residents

Hillsborough County wants a pool of highly qualified, diverse candidates available when firefighter and paramedic positions come open. To that end, it's leaving little to chance.

Three education programs supported by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners provide training for people interested in fire-rescue careers. There's the Summer Youth Fire Academy, the Cadet Program, and the Fire Academy.

Instructors want participants to learn skills and be inspired to consider firefighting as a career. Ideally along the way, standout attendees will gain a favorable impression of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

Diversifying its workforce is one reason for this extensive education effort. Fire Rescue wants its more than 1,000 firefighters, paramedics, and other staffers to reflect the County's demographics. It is reaching out to women, minorities, and economically disadvantaged residents, encouraging them to attend the training programs and apply for available jobs.

Strawberries
Cadet firefighters compete in the recent Buccaneer Fire Games.

Here's a breakdown of the programs and what they do:

Summer Youth Fire Academy: The free, two-week program exposes students and graduating high school seniors, ages 14-18, to basic skills used by first responders. Since 2002, Summer Youth Fire Academy has given hundreds of area teens a glimpse into the life of a firefighter.

Cadet Program: Designed to build on experience gained in the Summer Youth Fire Academy, this year-round program teaches teens and young adults additional firefighting and rescue skills. Participants compete against other cadet programs about four times annually and can earn scholarships to the Fire Academy.

Fire Academy: The Hillsborough County Fire Rescue/Aparicio-Levy Technical College Fire Academy provides skills and information students need to become certified firefighters in Florida. After 492 hours of study and training, and upon passing the Academy's written and practical examinations, candidates may take the state exam.

Strawberries
Jordan Shkuratoff (left) and Makenzie Phillian are among teens and young adults learning firefighting skills through programs supported by Hillsborough County.

Jordan Shkuratoff, 17, a rising senior at Seminole High School in Pinellas County, attends both the Cadet Program and the Summer Youth Fire Academy. A football player, he particularly enjoys physical aspects of firefighting. "I thought it was just going in with a hose and spraying some water, but it's much more complex," he says.

Makenzie Phillian, 16, will be a senior this fall at Tampa Catholic High School. For years she has wanted to be firefighter. "I never even knew we had this program," she says of the Summer Youth Fire Academy. Makenzie enjoys learning about career paths within the profession. You can be an instructor, a SWAT medic, or an expert in Hazmat skills, among other specialties, she says.

With 43 fire stations, one rescue station, and more operations planned, Hillsborough County strives to meet the needs of its growing population. Continuing to diversify Fire Rescue to reflect the community is a primary goal.

Top photo: Cadet firefighters confer during the Buccaneer Fire Games held at Hillsborough County's Fire Rescue training facility in April. Hillsborough's team won two first-place trophies.

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