Burning bright future
A 2,600-square-foot building along Agate Road that will house Rogue Community College's fire science program isn't a visual standout. But for the community college and Jackson County Fire District No. 3, it represents the culmination of six years of plans.
"It's just taken a while to get to this point," said Gary Heigel, head of the RCC Emergency Services Department. "So it’s an exciting development."
Leaders from RCC and Fire District No. 3 will cut the ribbon on the new Fire Science Center at 2 p.m. Tuesday, with walk-throughs and speeches planned.
The building features two classrooms that can be combined to hold up to 150 people, as well as office space for faculty.
Its significance rests mostly in its location.
Heigel said the center will enable RCC students to more seamlessly move between lecture-based learning and hands-on training. It is located about 75 feet from Fire District 3’s training facility, which draws emergency responders from across the region.
Heigel said students might learn in a lecture about the differences between a fire in a commercial structure versus a residential structure. Outside at the training facility, they will be able to put that knowledge into practice with drills, and instructors will be able to incorporate both pieces into their courses.
Ashley Blakely, public information officer with Fire District 3, explains how different areas in the training facility work in the video below:
“That wasn’t realistic when there’s a half-mile between our classroom and our area where we could do that training,” said Heigel. Fire science students have historically taken lecture classes at the Table Rock campus.
A variety of other emergency services agencies will also be able to rent the facility for trainings or conferences, said Heigel.
“Our vision from the start of the project was to create a regional training center to serve needs well beyond RCC and Fire District 3,” he said.
Dave Blakely, division chief with Fire District 3, said that sharing space and resources with RCC’s fire science program benefits more than students.
“We have a mutual interest in making sure the (community) college’s fire science program is preparing and producing competent firefighters for departments to hire,” he said. “We want them to be prepared, physically and mentally ... and have the skill set to be successful.”
Collaborating with local emergency agencies to help students gain practical skills is a consistent priority in the fire science program. Heigel mentioned student firefighter positions offered by local departments, in which the departments pay student tuition and school-related expenses in exchange for working 10 shifts a month. Those students leave with not only a degree, but also years of firefighting experience.
The $1 million building was funded half by the fire agency’s capital fund, and half with $500,000 from RCC’s $20 million bond. Jackson and Josephine County voters passed the bond in 2016.
Students will begin using the facility Feb. 25. All fire science classes will be held at the new center starting spring term, which begins April 1.