Ketchikan Fire Department staff coach Revilla Junior Senior High School students on their CPR skills Wednesday (KRBD photo/Raegan Miller).

Six students from Revilla Junior Senior High School have spent all year learning the ins and outs of firefighting. The small group learned how to take apart fire hydrants, put on safety gear, perform CPR and even how to use air tanks. They all graduated from the program after a final challenge on Wednesday.

A handful of students are unrolling and connecting fire hoses, practicing CPR, using a tourniquet and dressing in firefighters’ heavy garb. 

And to really up the pressure, they were being timed. 

It’s a week before graduation, and this is the final challenge from a year-long program where students trained with local firefighters. The obstacle course combined all the skills the students had learned.

The students did the course on two teams — the “fireflighters” and the “Three Stooges.” 

Melodie Grootonk was tasked with putting on the firefighters’ gear for her team. She said it wasn’t quite as heavy as expected. 

“It feels awkward, for sure,” she laughed.

The senior said she benefited most from learning CPR. All six students walked away with certifications in CPR and first aid, valid for two years.

“That was definitely I was like, ‘Okay, wow, I have little siblings, and I could definitely continue on with that,'” she said.

Chase Hanis, another senior, said he learned skills that will come in handy in everyday life, but also some other cool stuff. Like how a fire hydrant works.

“So there’s actually a certain way you have to remove all this stuff before you can attach the hose to it, or else it’ll like, you know, probably explode or something like that,” Hanis said.

There’s a good chance the program will get even bigger next school year. Ketchikan’s fire marshal, Gretchen O’Sullivan, said this year was a sort of pilot program.

She said Revilla staff approached the department late last summer, and pitched the idea. 

“So we taught them how to hook hoses up to water supplies, and how to use the nozzles,” she explained. “We did teach them CPR, we taught them some bleeding control and just some first aid. We taught them how to change out air bottles. So if, like, on a fire scene, when the firefighters need air bottles changed.”

And from what O’Sullivan can see, it’s gone well. There’s already a waiting list for next year. 

“We really enjoyed it,” she said. “The kids have been really responsive.”

There might even be some future firefighters in the bunch. Just about all of the students KRBD talked to said they’d be interested.

Addie Roth, a Revilla administrator, echoed that.

“I have a couple that are interested in becoming volunteers,” Roth said. “And just hopefully they’ll go through with it.”

The last day of the program ended with a barbecue to celebrate the students. Ketchikan’s fire chief, Rick Hines, gave each student a challenge coin from the department, plus a plaque. 

Raegan Miller is a Report for America corps member for KRBD. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution at