COLLEGE STATION – More than 3,300 firefighters battled blazes and a blistering Texas summer to spend a week at the Brayton Fire Training Field, where responders from across the world come to gain hands-on experience through realistic, live-fire, rescue and hazmat scenarios on full-scale training props.
Temperatures in the high 90s did not dampen the enthusiasm this year of more than 2,500 firefighters and 822 guest instructors from 31 countries who traveled to College Station to participate in one of three, intensive weeklong schools in July.
The largest of the three schools, the 90th Annual Municipal Fire School, was held July 21-26 and drew 1,413 firefighters for training in more than 30 areas. The majority of participants serve in small or volunteer fire departments, and represented 177 Texas counties as well as 13 other states and two other countries. The most popular courses were Firefighting Phases I – V, Fire Instructor, Wildland Firefighter, Emergency Medical Responder and Automobile Extrication. The school was hosted by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) in conjunction with the State Firefighters’ & Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas.
During the Municipal Fire School, a public firefighting and rescue demonstration was held for hundreds of area citizens and families of Fire School participants. TEEX staff and guest instructors demonstrated firefighting skills and rescue techniques through dramatic scenarios on some of the world’s largest firefighting props, including the nation’s largest bulk storage tank project.
On July 14-19, the 56th Annual Industrial Fire School trained 714 members of industrial emergency response brigades and safety officers from some of the world’s largest oil & gas and chemical companies from 29 states and 14 countries. More than 20 courses – most of them eligible for Pro Board certification – were conducted by TEEX staff and 220 guest instructors.
The 53rd Escuela para Bomberos en Espanol is the largest U.S. fire training program conducted entirely in the Spanish language. This year, 375 Spanish-speaking firefighters from 19 countries traveled thousands of miles for a week of challenging training in firefighting, rescue and hazardous materials as well as instructor development. Twenty courses were offered July 7-12 with the assistance of 144 Spanish-speaking guest instructors.
Since 1930, when 196 firefighters converged on Bryan-College Station for the first Fire School at Texas A&M University, the community has welcomed firefighters with open arms, and local businesses have relished the influx of visitors during a time when most students have gone home for the summer. The three weeklong schools brought an overall economic impact this year of at least $1.4 million to the community in direct spending at hotels, restaurants, gas station and local business, according to Experience Bryan College Station, the local convention and visitors bureau.