KFD and Fulton High School creating next generation of firefighters

The Fire Management Program at Fulton High School gives students hands-on experience.
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 10:17 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Fulton High School students in the Fire Management Program are getting hands-on experience and a true taste of what it’s like to be a firefighter.

“It’s scary at first a little bit, but it’s great,” said Tristan White, a junior at Fulton.

The school is teaming up with the Knoxville Fire Department. KFD has donated full gear from helmets to boots and a series of emergency equipment. On Wednesday, the department gave a working firetruck. This is a gift that Operations Deputy Chief Gary Compton said he considers an investment in the future.

“We realized we have to get the attention and do our work to attract local kids,” Compton said.

Compton said KFD’s firefighter application numbers are historically low. He said he hopes the partnership will grab students’ attention and make them think about firefighting as a career path, like junior Abby Swaggerty who said becoming a firefighter is now her top choice.

“It never really crossed my mind until I started the class,” Swaggerty said.

These students are learning under retired KFD firefighter Darrell Whitaker. He uses his more than 30 years of experience to simulate emergency situations for the students.

“Right now, I’ve seen these kids grow emotionally and in their self-confidence. What a wonderful thing to see these kids blossom,” Whitaker said.

The students are not responding to emergency calls or real fires, but Whitaker said the simulations help them learn fundamental skills in a safe environment.