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Middle Georgia State students get hands-on experience as part-time firefighters

Cochran Fire Chief Brock Wilcher says rural counties often rely on volunteers, so this program helps with more manpower

COCHRAN, Ga. — Middle Georgia State started a program three years ago for students to work as part-time firefighters. They're helping Cochran while also hitting the books.

Junior Elijah Coles starts his part-time firefighter shift by checking the truck.

"Running the trucks up, making sure the sirens and stuff work, making sure that everything is on the truck. We do our daily duties, which can be washing the trucks, and cleaning the bays and stuff like that," Coles said.

His classmates and colleagues, Darryl Poole and Shane Woods, also work as part-time firefighters, working two 12-hour shifts a week.

"My shift; we go around doing inspections for the local businesses making sure they're up to code. Other than that, when we're not doing that, we're just waiting on the call," Poole said.

They get hands-on experience assisting calls. Woods helped with a medical emergency after a woman was stabbed.

"When reality set in to let you know that this wasn't a game anymore. She survived as far as my knowledge, but yeah...that's when reality set in," Woods said.

Cochran Fire Chief Brock Wilcher says the program with Middle Georgia State started 3 years ago.

"Teach them firefighting skills, get them state certified as firefighters, and then that would help us out with our manpower and be able to put them on shift with full-time firefighters and go to calls around the station. Anything we needed," said Cochran Fire Chief, Brock Wilcher.

"On our down time when we're not running calls, doing daily duties at the station, we're allowed to do our homework so that helps a lot," Woods said.

They've had 15 students come through the program. Drew Daniels was one of the seven who have taken a full-time position across the state.

"The one-on-one and real-life fire training was probably the biggest perk. I was getting into aviation and had a passion for firefighting and it ended up being a career for me," Daniels said.

Most of the students are studying aviation and say this experience can help with a job in aerial firefighting as water bombers.

Wilcher says rural counties often rely on volunteer firefighters, which are hard to recruit, and this program helps fill those positions.

The part-time student firefighters are paid minimum wage, making $7.25 an hour.

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