Cheney Free Press -


By John McCallum

Fanning the flames of career exploration

Spokane County Fire District 3 personnel provide Eastern Washington University students a look at being firefighters


John McCallum

Spokane County Fire District 3 volunteer firefighters Mike Heiydt and Travis Devine prepare to show Eastern Washington University foreign exchange students how to extinguish a propane fire.

Eastern Washington University foreign exchange students received an opportunity last week to answer a question that may or may not have been buzzing about in their minds. Do I want to have a career in firefighting?

Eighty-two students from Eastern's Asia University America Program (AUAP) were given a firsthand look at firefighting during tours of Spokane County Fire District 3's training facility Wednesday morning. EWU adjunct faculty member Mary Parker said the tour was part of the students' career exploration class, one of several course requirements during their five-month stay.

Eastern hosts 30-90 AUAP freshmen and sophomore students from Asia University in Tokyo, Japan twice a year, with over 2,600 students participating since the exchange began in 1992. Students spend 20 hours each week learning English language proficiency in courses as well as by being matched with American students they will room with in Eastern's residence halls.

Parker said the students learn more than just English. Students gain cultural experiences through living in the residence halls and take courses in history, global issues and American studies.

And career exploration - which is what brought the students down to District 3 headquarters on Presley Drive to meet with Deputy Chief Don Crawford. As one of five full-time staff supporting over 120 part-time paid volunteer firefighters in 10 stations, Crawford is also responsible for coordinating facility tours.

Crawford and other staff members explained to the students what district personnel typically do, which most of the time - 75 percent - is respond to medical calls throughout the district's 565 square miles ranging from the Lincoln County line to Spangle and south to the border with Whitman County. There are other duties too, such as building inspections, new construction inspections and public education, along with firefighting.

With the district's training facility nearly complete, there's also that aspect as well. Crawford said the facility, which has been built over the past couple of years using district labor and its own funding, allows them the ability not only to provide training to their volunteers but to other fire agencies as well. One example is the district teaming with Cheney's Fire Department on confined space training, utilizing several vaults and short tunnels built underground at the facility.

John McCallum

SCFD 3 firefighter Shane McCandless demonstrates how a piece of equipment known as "The Jaws of Life" operates.

Eastern students got a sample of that training and experience last Wednesday, moving from station to station where district personnel talked about various aspects of firefighting. One station exposed students to the equipment used by firefighters, another featured two volunteers demonstrating how to extinguish a propane fire, and still another took students to the top of the district's fire tower.

Students also got to check out the district's maintenance shop where they viewed a new brush attack engine under construction, comparing it with a finished product nearby. Many of the district's 46 pieces of apparatus were built in-house by stripping down older vehicles purchased from other agencies and outfitting them to the district's needs.

"We've got a lot of training opportunities here," Crawford said.

The district isn't done constructing the facility just yet. Crawford said they plan to build a new classroom building this summer, replacing a smaller room in the headquarters building.

John McCallum can be reached at


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