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Parkland to Offer 'Science of Firefighting' Class in Fall

The course was dropped due to lack of interest about five years ago but South Whitehall, Parkland School District and local fire companies hope today's students will want to learn more.

South Whitehall Township's Volunteer Fire Subcommittee has been working with volunteer firefighters to boost their biggest asset -- people. 

South Whitehall's Board President Christina "Tori" Morgan said she and former President Brad Osborne initiated the subcommittee about 1.5 years ago to improve communication with area volunteer firefighters. David Bond currently serves on the committee.

"We saw a very large disconnect with how firefighters could communicate with the township - through no fault of their own," Morgan said.

Realizing that a bunch of equipment meant nothing if there weren't enough firefighters to operate them, the subcommittee put people at the top of their list of priorities.

They approached Parkland Superintendent Richard Sniscak about reviving a firefighting course at Parkland High School that was dropped due to lack of interest and, Morgan said, "They didn't hesitate and said they'd love to help."

Eric Gopen, a Parkland social studies teacher and volunteer firefighter for the Lower Macungie Fire Department, will be teaching the class.

"I volunteered to help with the class because many of the students here at Parkland High School expressed interest in it when they found out I was a volunteer firefighter," Gopen said.

He said he will share teaching with Barry Search, assistant chief at Woodlawn Fire Department in the township and retired Parkland High School science teacher, who originally taught the course years ago. 

Sniscak said, "We look at it as more of a community service because all three townships are served by a volunteer force. The more we can help create our own, the better."

Gopen, who recently retired as Parkland basketball coach, became interested in firefighting after a visit to his local fire company.

"I liked what I saw and dove into the training head first, taking the Firefighter One, Hazardous Materials, and Basic Vehicle Rescue courses in the first year," Gopen said. "I've also taken the training to drive and operate the trucks. It's been a lot of fun."

Gopen said most of the current junior firefighters at Parkland High School have told him they plan to enroll and bring friends with them.

"The goal is to increase the number of junior firefighters that volunteer for the local fire companies and have them remain with the departments after they graduate from high school," Gopen said.

Here is the course description as it appears in the Parkland Course Directory:

The course incorporates the principles of physics, chemistry and biology as they relate to firefighting.  

Physics topics include friction loss in water and other fluids, simple machines, and the calculation of mechanical advantage. Students learn the principle of operation behind the use of rescue apparatus such as the jaws of life and thermal imaging tools.  

Topics in chemistry include combustion, fire, and the by-products of materials during and after combustion. MSDS sheets will be incorporated.  

Topics in biology relate to the study of biological agents, decontamination procedures, and response gear. Certification is offered in CPR and First Aid.

Elements of math are considered as they relate to the various topics. The course is extremely “hands-on” and involves all of the resources used in the fire service (protective clothing, air packs, tools, ropes, engines, and hose lines).

The Choice Is Clear, 13 December 12, 2012 at 01:09 PM
waste of time, money and effort....failed 5 years ago it failed, nothing has changed, set it up at the vocational technical school. Just proves how out of touch Commissioner Morgan is with the community and its future, raise trash fees for no apparent reason, time to vote her out in '13
Steve Reimert December 12, 2012 at 05:33 PM
As an Educator and life long volunteer fire fighter a similar explorer program got me interested. I would have relished being able to complete my training for school credit.
dale french December 12, 2012 at 11:35 PM
As a volunteer for 33 years now I have to tip my hat th Barry Search ."3202" He has my 9th grade science teacher at Spring House He recruited back then to join the JR Firefighter explorer post. Folks/ Kids volunteer for your fire company's / EMS we need you .
Deana Held December 13, 2012 at 01:11 PM
If everyone had this type of attitude, our township would be doomed. We need younger people to get involved, what better way to reach out to them. This is worth a try. Kids sometimes get too involved in other things and do not even realize things like this exist for them. Being offered in school where kids are everyday is a bonus and please give it a chance. We need volunteers. Think about it, in 10 years or so, if these kids do not step up, who will fight YOUR fire. Common sense says, we need to go above and beyond to accomplish this. It is a heartwarming experience for them to help others in need. Volunteers are a must for our safety in the township. I guess until you have an unfortunate event, you do not realize it. Get out and meet these firefighters at all the area stations, they are very caring and special people. P.S, all the commissioners in the township are good people also, trying to make everything WORK. Not an easy job. Happy Holidays to you.
Patricia Dorf December 18, 2012 at 04:10 AM
I for one support anything that will give the teens an outlet to participate in other than roaming the streets, the malls, or even hanging out getting into trouble. Think about if we give the teens something for them to take pride in what happens to them? They will become responsible adults.

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