CMC Leadville Fire Academy graduates 15 cadets
By Carrie Click
Colorado Mountain College Leadville celebrated the graduation of 15 cadets from its Fire Academy at a commencement ceremony held Dec. 10 at the Old Church in Leadville.
Cadets who graduate from CMC’s Fire Academy 1 certificate program pass a state-regulated test that insures each possesses the skills necessary to respond to medical, fire-related and hazardous materials incidents.
Certification is rigorous. Since August, cadets have been taking two college-level courses totaling 12 credit hours: Firefighter I and Hazardous Materials Operations. The academy curriculum included classes at CMC Leadville, ride-a-longs with area fire departments during emergencies and hands-on experience at the college’s hazmat training facility outside Leadville.
Instructed by active and retired firefighters from seven regional fire districts, the graduates are now prepared to work in fire department jobs. Most are immediately studying to earn their emergency medical technician through CMC.
There’s a reason for that. Most calls that come into fire departments now involve medical, and not fire-related, emergencies. Firefighters need a medical emergency background to be able to perform their jobs. In addition, some cadets are continuing their studies at CMC to earn an associate degree in the college’s fire science program or will be registering for Fire Academy II to advance their skills.
A lifetime calling
This is a young class. Most cadets in the class of 2022 are recent high school graduates. By a show of hands, none has children, and they are local, or from throughout Colorado. Several are from out-of-state such as Wisconsin, Texas and Missouri.
“I want to stay in Colorado,” said Grace Hubbard, the only female in the class who came from Wisconsin after researching fire academies throughout Colorado before deciding on CMC’s program. “I want to stay and work as a firefighter in the mountains.”
Cain Gibson, at 24, is the old man of the class. He graduated from Battle Mountain High School in the Vail Valley and jumped right into wildland firefighting with the Peak 2 Fire near Breckenridge in 2017, the Cameron Fire in 2020 and the Ptarmigan Fire in 2021 near Silverthorne. He registered for CMC’s Leadville Fire Academy because he wanted to take on more firefighting responsibilities that being certified can provide him.
“I’ve wanted to be a firefighter my whole life,” said Gibson, of a sentiment that many in his class share. “This is a class of go-getters.”
Receiving a leadership award for his role as class captain was graduate Erik Passmore. The academic excellence award went to graduate Ian Floyd. Josh Jelcick of Salida Fire Rescue received the instructor of the year award and Brandon Drury of the Eagle River Fire Protection District received a special axe from the class as an acknowledgement of his work as their instructor.
‘The fire within’
There’s not doubt that it takes drive to be a firefighter. It also takes a calling, as Brandon Drury of the Eagle River Fire Protection District pointed out during one of three speeches given during the ceremony.
“This is a fun job,” he said. “It’s also serious. It’s a calling. And you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Your decisions have gravity. So, be sure to find your ‘why?’. When everyone is running out of a building on fire and you’re running in, always remember your purpose. The fire is within you.”
Go to CMC’s fire science program for more information about careers in firefighting.