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The forefront of fire science

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Posted: Saturday, March 6, 2004 6:17 am | Updated: 5:19 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

When hazardous materials technicians are called out to deal with a methamphetamine lab anywhere in the Valley, chances are they acquired their skills through Mesa Community College.

Since 1981, MCC has trained firefighters in handling hazardous materials incidents, fire science and emergency medical technology.

Now, MCC’s fire science program is achieving national recognition and drawing students from across the country.

"We just can’t get this training in Idaho," said Jeremy McLean, a member of the Idaho National Guard. "If its deemed we need to assist firefighters with hazardous materials we need this training."

McLean and other Idaho National Guardsmen will graduate from the 20-day hazardous materials course today. In the fall, students from Texas A &M University, which has the largest firefighting school in the country, will train through MCC at the Phoenix Fire Department’s Incident Command Center.

"We have been innovative enough to address the problems and the challenges all the cities have been through," said Larry Thacker, director of fire science and emergency medical technology at MCC. "People come to us all the time (for training)."

That includes the federal government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency asked MCC to offer an associates degree in emergency management. That program will be available next semester.

Parterning with Valley fire departments while offering firefighters college credit for training with MCC has allowed the college to expand its fire science program, said Chief Bob Khan, spokesman for the Phoenix Fire Department.

"They were proactive and aggressive in providing services to the largest fire department in the state of Arizona," Khan said.

Expansion of the fire science program at community colleges throughout Maricopa County is especially important since 40 percent of the Valley’s fire service employees will retire in the next four years, Thacker said.

Chandler and Tempe are seeking partnership agreements with MCC to address the impending vacancies.

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