Fairfax, VT– The Franklin-Lamoille Fire School has seen a decrease in enrollment since the COVID pandemic, causing many classes to be cancelled.
But firefighters say the training offered by the school is widely needed as departments struggle to bring on new recruits.
Taylor Josephson of the Fairfax Fire Department says the school’s classes — from basic firefighter courses and flammable gas control to CPR and helicopter landing — are for people aspiring to become firefighters, as well as already-employed firefighters.
“A lot of the departments up in this area don’t have the access to some of the trainings a lot of places really need,” he says. “Whether you’re paid or a volunteer, the trainings should never stop.”
But Josephson says since the pandemic, enrollments numbers have not been as high as he’d like to see. Many students go to the southern Vermont for training, leaving the Franklin-Lamoille school struggling.
A recent class on flammable gas control, which Josephson says is one of the most in-demand courses, attracted just three people. So it had to be cancelled.
“It does get frustrating,” he says. “Our list of 15 classes may end up as four.
“Obviously, it’s a little more rural up this way, so we’re just trying to rebuild these schools. There’s really no reason why we shouldn’t be holding schools with 100, 150 people.”
Amid new recruitment efforts this year, the school is still looking to enroll enough people so the classes can be held. Josephson notes the low enrollment numbers reflect the declining interest of young people becoming firefighters in the two counties.
“The people who started volunteering are getting up there in age, and the younger generation is not really coming in at the same waves that they had when they were younger,” says Josephson. “I wouldn’t say everyone’s hurting for staff, but we’re hurting for people who can really get into it, we’re looking for those future generations that we can leave all of this to.”
All Franklin-Lamoille Fire School classes will be in session on September 23 and 24. People interested can pre-register, or sign up day-of.