Innovative program bridges construction and fire service training for Colorado high school students 

South Adams County fire fighters help students learn hands-on skills through a new construction program on SACFD training ground.

April 9 • 2024

The South Adams County Fire Department (SACFD) in Colorado is teaming up with 27J Schools, beginning with Prairie View High School (PVHS), to provide hands-on training in construction. However, it is not solely about swinging hammers.  

“It’s beneficial to us as a way of teaching them construction skills, but also possibly recruiting future fire fighters by them getting to see what we do with the project,” said Chris VanDijk, with South Adams County, CO Local 5124. 

David Metish, a fire captain with the SACFD and a member of Local 5124, partnered with the school to secure a $490,000 grant from Adams County under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to spearhead the program. 

We decided to bring the high school young adults off campus to the fire department training facility to learn leadership from fire fighters and in return the fire fighters can also take part and learn some building trades.

David metish, sacfd fire captain

“The partnership has been a fruitful one through providing real-life hands-on experience that is difficult to find anywhere else around the Denver metro area,” said Local 5124 President Augdon Greening.  

The 1,000-square-foot house is being built with assistance from local contractors. Donations were secured for building materials, including concrete, electrical, plumbing, and drywall, while the program also acquired safety equipment, such as steel-toed work boots, hard hats, eye protection, and gloves.  

Metish says the new initiative attracts students from all walks of life. “We had two girls in this first go-round, and they were super intrigued,” he said. “One of them was a valedictorian. The other one wanted to be in masonry, graduated last year, and is an apprentice at a masonry company.”  

Plans are in place to build multiple houses on the training ground, each displaying a unique design, spanning from legacy to modern styles. These houses will be fully furnished with drywall, cabinets, and appliances, but will not have functioning utilities. 

Brother Metish has been spearheading the development of the partnership with the high school and has secured all the funding for the project through grants.

Augdon greening, president, local 5124

“The site used for building the house is located on one of the SACFD training grounds and there are plans to build another house after the completion of this one,” said Greening.

The unique partnership goes beyond education; completed houses serve as crucial training sites for fire fighters to simulate diverse scenarios. “The students have been learning the skills of the labor trades while building a NFPA 1403 compliant building that the fire fighters at SACFD will use for training once it is complete,” said Greening. 

Using generators and fire trucks, Metish says simulations of residential scenarios like HazMat incidents are conducted, complete with simulation mannequins. “Safety training includes non-destructive testing and public demonstrations to highlight the effectiveness of residential fire sprinklers, now mandatory in new homes,” he said. “Fire fighter training involves controlled destruction of the houses, simulating real emergencies with glass, siding, and brick encompassing many of the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives.” 

These efforts, which also equip students with essential tools and skills, play a vital role in shaping the next generation of fire fighters and construction professionals. 

“If we can just give them a glimpse of what fire fighters do, because soon we are going to have a crisis here where we have all these individuals who are going to retire, and we are not able to replace them as we used to, so this program helps,” said Van Dijk.  

“Development of relationships and partnerships is crucial to us as a labor organization, and we could not be prouder of the dedication Brother Metish has shown through all of this,” said Greening. “We look forward to the continued partnership between SACFD and PVHS and hope to begin additional partnerships with the other surrounding school districts as well.”