Learning to fight flames

Glendale News Press

Sophomore Fernando Olivares demonstrated the process of dousing flames to fellow Hoover High School students on Thursday during a firefighting lesson.

Fernando, 16, and the other students were schooled this week during their Police and Fire Academy courses on the different types of fire extinguishers, using the devices correctly and possible areas for storage.

On Thursday morning, the students finally got the opportunity to use a fire extinguisher on live, controlled flames.

"It was a new experience because I have never used a fire extinguisher before," Fernando said.

To set the fire, Instructor John Wray, a retired Glendale firefighter, released propane gas into a metal container and lit it with a flare.

"What would be the thing you would have to worry about if you had this as a car fire?" Wray asked students. "If the engine is still hot, more than likely the gas will react as if it were a gas leak and this thing will reignite, so you want to hit it with the fire extinguisher, step back and wait. Be ready for it to reignite again."

Learning how to use a fire extinguisher is one of several hands-on lessons taught to Fernando and the other students during the yearlong academy.

Fernando, who said he wants to be a police officer, applied and interviewed with instructors to be selected for the academy, where he learned basic skills.

"I have always been interested in [police work] and have wanted to be a police officer since I was a little kid," he said.

While Fernando is hoping to join a police force, he said learning about firefighting in the academy has allowed him to experience the other side of public safety.

Learning about the police tactics, penal codes and procedures has given Fernando a greater appreciation of the world of public safety.

"Now, I look at them differently," he said. "Police officers that you think disrespect people, but they are just doing their job. And firefighters are also just doing their job to keep you safe and alive in any situation."

The academy was established four years ago in an effort to expose teens to public safety and develop a stronger base of homegrown firefighters and officers, said Tanya Gregorian, public education coordinator for the Glendale Fire Department.

Students are recruited into the academy as freshmen, and join the next year. They continue the academy until their senior year when they learn advanced first aid and other skills.

Student Annie Macias, 16, was the only girl to sign up and join the sophomore academy with a goal of becoming a crime scene investigator.

"When I first got in it was awkward, but then I got used to it because this is what I want to be," Annie said.

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