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Staff Writer | May 22, 2023 1:30 AM

QUINCY — Yanetzi Gonzalez said the fire science class at Quincy High School helped her make up her mind about her future. Marcelo Moreno said he had a good idea what he wanted to do after high school, but the fire science class showed him there were even more opportunities.

Gonzalez, Moreno, Genesis Franco and Mario Guerrero, all QHS juniors, were among the participants in fire science state competition sponsored by SkillsUSA, and all four of them finished in the top 10. Gonzalez and Moreno qualified for SkillsUSA national competition; Moreno had other commitments, so Franco will be taking his place.

It will be a return trip for Gonzalez, who qualified for national competition in 2022.

“Originally I did not know what kind of job I wanted in public safety,” Gonzalez said. “But then as I took the class and time progressed, I realized I wanted to go into firefighting.”

Moreno already was thinking of a career in the fire service.

“I always wanted to be a structure firefighter, and I thought this was a good opportunity,” he said.

There is, however, a lot more to firefighting and fire service careers. Moreno said he learned that through the class.

“I didn’t even know there was wildland (firefighting),” he said.

Franco and Guerrero said the class gave them a chance to learn more about a career that had attracted them when they thought about careers.

“It kind of interested me in the past few years,” Guerrero said. “So I was like, ‘I’ll just give it try, see how I like it.’”

“I always wanted to help people, and when I thought about (firefighting) it seemed like more hands-on,” Franco said.

Sometimes the lesson young people learn in a class is that they don’t want that career after all. But for the fire science students that initial interest was reaffirmed. Gonzalez said it’s not only the satisfaction of learning skills, it’s also the connections that come with the fire service.

“When we had our CTE night we got to showcase our gear, our skills and everything we’ve learned in this class so far,” she said.

“I really liked interacting with people, and that’s one of the reasons why I want to be a first responder, and now a firefighter. I like building these relationships with people that I meet for the first time,” Gonzalez added.

Moreno said he came in with expectations that didn’t quite fit the job.

“I thought it was going to be different at first, less paperwork,” he said. “But it got - fun. Doing all (the training), learning the skills and using them, and knowing I could help people doing it, kept me interested.

“I thought the whole class was going to be hands-on, but (about) 50% of it is paperwork,” Moreno said.

The class, Guerrero said, literally teaches students how to fight a fire.

“Throwing on gear, hoses, ladders, connecting to engines, CPR, things like that,” he said.

Each student has a full set of fire gear, the fire-resistant coat and pants, boots, gloves, helmet and self-contained breathing apparatus. Gonzalez is the class chief, and has a white helmet as a result. Guerrero is the class captain; his helmet is red.

The SkillsUSA contest presented them with situations they would confront on a fire scene - analyzing fire behavior, making an initial attack, removing an unconscious person from danger. Gonzalez said it was a fair test of their skills.

“I placed first last year so I was a little more confident, but it was still a little nerve-wracking,” she said. “Overall, I had more fun than being nervous.”

Both the state and national competition measure contestants against a standard, and Gonzalez said she’s concentrating on surpassing what she’s already done.

“I think I’ll do all right. I think it’s mostly just competing against my own standards. Going against what I’ve done so far and becoming better,” she said.

Cheryl Schweizer may be reached at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.



From left, Yanetzi Gonzalez, Genesis Franco, Mario Guerrero and Marcelo Moreno said the fire science class at Quincy High School has given them the opportunity to determine if firefighting is the career for them - and it is.



A Quincy High School firefighter is put to the test at the SkillsUSA competition.



Quincy High School fire science student Yanetzi Gonzalez shows off her ladder skills at the SkillsUSA state competition.