When the alarm sounds inside the Onondaga Hill Fire Department (OHFD), OCC is well represented on the trucks that respond to the latest emergency call. The department’s firefighters include 15 former OCC students and six current Fire Protection Technology majors who are part of the bunk-in program. It allows the students to live in the fire department free of charge in exchange for responding to emergency calls. “The bunk-in program is a huge asset to our department,” said OHFD Deputy Chief Joshua Fuller. “Our residents receive enhanced fire protection, students save a significant amount of money and work side-by-side with professionals while receiving valuable hands-on training 24 hours a day.”
One of those bunk-in students is David Scoones who came to OCC with a strong firefighting background. At age 16 he joined the Clinton Volunteer Fire Department, making him the tenth member of his extended family to become a firefighter. Scoones wound up at OCC after one of those extended family members, a cousin with the Liverpool Fire Department, told him about the program. Scoones graduated from Clinton High School in June 2015 and two months later was bunking-in at OHFD while taking classes. “It’s gone really well. I’m learning basic, hands-on everyday things,” said Scoones.
One of the firefighters Scoones works with at OHFD is Connor Donahue, a May 2015 OCC grad. Donahue came to the College from Hamburg High School (about 15 miles south of Buffalo). He’s a fourth generation firefighter who also took part in the bunk-in program. Donahue spent his freshman year at the Dewitt Fire Department before moving to OHFD for his sophomore year. He decided to stay on after earning his degree. “The bunk-in program showed me what the job was all about,” said Donahue. “It’s very family oriented. You do everything like a team. When the bell rings we all go out right away.”
OCC’s Fire Protection Technology program is coordinated by retired Syracuse firefighter Doug Whittaker. He says the program produces students with a high level of academic and practical understanding of the fire protection field thanks in large part to the instructional staff. “All OCC Public Safety Training instructors are adjuncts and most teach only one course in their field of expertise,” said Whittaker. “Our instructional staff is chosen based on life experiences, knowledge and ability in the content area of the course work each teaches.”
OCC’s Fire Protection Technology program is uniquely qualified to educate the next generation of firefighters. It is the only accredited institution in New York State to offer certification for students who want to be internationally certified as firefighters, fire officers or fire service instructors. The certification is overseen by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress. One institution in each of the 50 states is awarded this accreditation. In New York State that college is OCC.