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PCC’s Fire Protection Technology Program sets up academy in Columbia County

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The Fire Protection Technology program at Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus has a well-earned reputation as one of the strongest programs of its kind in our region. This spring, however, the program is trying something different.

Trainees take part in a fire extinguisher drill at the Columbia County academy.

Trainees take part in a fire extinguisher drill at the Columbia County academy.

Instructors from the program are traveling to Columbia County to conduct a training academy for firefighters in rural fire protection districts. The academy, which began in late February, runs on weekends through June 24, and serves firefighters from communities such as Vernonia, Scappoose, St. Helen’s and Clatskanie, among others. PCC is collaborating with the Lower Columbia Regional Training Officers’ Association to offer the academy, which helps rural fire districts stay connected with the most modern firefighting equipment and techniques.

The PCC program has held similar academies in the past, but this is the first time that the trainings have been held in an off-campus location, said Fire Protection Technology Department Chair Ed Lindsey.

“They [the training officers’ association] contacted us about putting on an academy in Columbia County,” Lindsey said. “It’s a great way to reach some of the personnel in outlying areas.”

Program faculty members Scott Sorenson, Jeff Stewart and Adam Troupe are providing the instruction for the academy, with the assistance of local firefighters. There are 16 students in the academy, all of whom are volunteers and would have difficulty attending weekday training sessions or classes.

“These agencies have brought together a diverse group of recruits who are focused and motivated,” said Scott Sorenson, a faculty member with the PCC program. “The local fire personnel and facility have been excellent. This is a great partnership.”

Lindsey said that the program hopes to offer similar academies in remote locations in the future. Doing so is in line with the program’s role as one of the most prominent fire protection programs in our area, he said, and helps to ensure that best practices in the industry filter out to rural fire districts.

“We’re a regional resource,” he said. “We work with agencies in East [Multnomah] County, Washington County, Clark County (Wash.) … . It lets them know what we’re doing here on the instructional end, and helps us to know what they’re doing as well.”

But the interaction between the program and area fire protection agencies doesn’t end with continuing education for firefighters, Lindsey said. PCC Fire Protection Technology students are also a fixture at area fire districts. He noted that at any given time, there are about 40 PCC student interns at more than 20 agencies in the area. PCC graduates can also be found in firehouses throughout the region and beyond.