Auburn Fire Department
Auburn Fire Department
By Julia Robertson
Auburn University senior, Tom Moore, knew he wanted to help people, and about four years ago he set out to find an opportunity. Moore stumbled upon Auburn’s student fire fighter program and realized he had found a new and exciting way to serve the community.
The Auburn Student Public Safety Programs allow students in the area to work professionally while saving lives and paying for school. Eligible candidates must be enrolled full time (12 hours) in any local university, community college or online school. In addition to maintaining a 2.0 grade point average, student fire fighters must pass a Candidate Physical Ability Test and attend a rookie school prior to assignment to a platoon and station.
The CPAT tests your physical ability in activities modeled after the daily work of a fire fighter. Some examples include a hose drag, dummy drag, sledge hammer swinging and walking on a stair stepper while wearing 75 pounds. The program does not require a written test but does include an interview in front of a panel of city employees.
Rookie school in its entirety lasts 14 weeks. Nine of those weeks involve training to fight fires and the remaining five involve emergency medical technician training. According to Moore, the work is serious, but the benefits are well worth it. “It’s really easy to make friends quickly within the program. We go to dinner together a lot or we might go work out in groups. On weekends when we have nothing to do we sometimes go on a trips together.”
The biggest financial incentive the program offers is the education reimbursement. All student fire fighters are paid an hourly rate similar to minimum wage. Additionally, every semester in which the students make at least a 2.5 GPA, the city pays them back for their tuition. All students who maintain the required 2.0 GPA can eventually qualify for in-state tuition as city employees.
The program also offers possible housing when space becomes available. Moore currently lives in one of the fire station dorm rooms. Without the burden of monthly rent and utility payments, Moore saved enough money to spend his summer traveling to China with the Auburn University College of Business.
The job requires students to work full time. Students can ask for a semester off to study abroad, but they cannot simply go home for the summer. They work 24 hours on the clock and 48 hours off. The scheduling does, however, allow students to leave during the day to attend class.
“You have to realize that 24 hours every third day you are going to be at work. You have to prioritize your time,” Moore said. “Someone always has to be there, so you might not get to go home for Christmas or go on spring break.”
Parents or students interested in the program first need to visit auburnalabama.org. Candidates can then apply only when the program has openings posted. Before that, possible candidates can schedule meetings with the Fire Chief to discuss the program or sit in on what are called “ride-alongs.”
Because of its popularity, the program is highly competitive. The most recent rookie class had approximately 240 applicants, and only 15 students were selected to train.
Moore feels fortunate to call himself a student fire fighter and says he has matured and learned a lot from his experience serving the city. “You learn the importance of communication. You have to be able to communicate quickly and effectively and get things done fast and efficiently,” he said. He also feels his time as a student fire fighter has taught him about selfless leadership, “taking initiative and leading by example.”
For anyone considering the program, Moore had these words of advice: “Do the program because you want to, not just because you want to get your school paid for. Do the program because you want to be part of a team, because you want to help people and because you want to learn a lot of really cool things and make those your top priorities.”
The city also offers similar programs for Public Safety Communicators performing E911 dispatcher responsibilities and Public Safety Specialists working with the police department on tasks not requiring sworn officers to be carried out. Visit auburnalabama.org for more information on the Student Public Safety Programs.