Selene Rodriguez, STC Communication Specialist
South Texas College provides opportunities of continuing education wherever it is needed, serving the entire Rio Grande Valley. Recently, instructors from the Regional Center of Public Safety Excellence (RCPSE) visited Starr County to share their knowledge in car fire and rescue with firefighters from the region.
Fire Science instructors conducted a training at STC’s Starr County campus where firefighters from Rio Grande City, Roma and Palmview were shown how to safely use the car fire simulator that STC fire cadets train with so they can later use it to also train their department firefighters.
“Most of the training props that STC acquires for training are mobile because we want to transport them wherever they’re needed,” said Robert Vela, campus coordinator for the Regional Center. “We want these resources to not only be available to our students but to every fire department in the RGV. Our mission is to continue these trainings that will result in the betterment of the region.”
Vela added that this is the first time that instructors from the regional center traveled off site to conduct a training and showed his appreciation to the Rio Grande City Fire Department for their support and continued partnership.
“We’re thankful to the college for giving us the opportunity to request this tool and help our team, we’re looking forward to visiting the regional center and learning more about the equipment STC has made available to us,” said Manuel Muniz, Rio Grande City Fire Department fire chief.
During the training, participants were shown the correct set up and operation of the training equipment and reviewed various techniques and approaches when encountering a car fire.
STC Fire Science Instructor Oscar Rodriguez highlighted the significance of this type of simulated equipment that allows firefighters to avoid prolonged exposure to harsh chemicals when training.
“Any car in today's world is a petroleum time-bomb, basically everything that produces black smoke is bad for our health,” Rodriguez explained. “It’s wrong to continue working with the concept of training in a realistic environment because these are cancer-causing petroleum products.”
He added that he takes pride in teaching the cadets the importance of cleaning their gear and the awareness of the health risks that come with the job so they can go on to have a successful career in the fire service and a healthy retirement.
Attendees were also presented with the academic opportunities that STC offers. Certified firefighters can obtain college credits during certain trainings that will count toward an associate degree in Fire Science or Emergency Medical Services, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership.
The RGV Fire Chief Association recently visited the STC regional center to learn more about the different pathways and financial aid available to firefighters in continuing education, which are also offered at a reduced cost.
“We understand they might not have the time to go in person to enroll or look for guidance, but we’re here to help,” said Student Engagement and Completion Specialist Salvador Hernandez. “We can go directly to the fire stations and help them with the registration and financial aid process, our goal is for them to have no barriers.”
Hernandez highlighted there’s a variety of financial aid and tuition reimbursement programs available, some of which have come as a result of STC partnerships with local fire departments.
“Depending on the city, it might not be a 100% tuition-waived fee, but it is a reduced cost. We want all firefighters to be aware of these resources so they can continue their education and move up successfully in their careers.”
For more information on training and programs offered at STC’s Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence, visit southtexascollege.edu/rcpse/ or call 956-872-4208.