ROY — On this day in Jason Poulsen's Fire Science class, his students are at the Roy Fire Department, trying on turnout gear, the heavy coat, pants and boots firefighters wear when responding to calls.

"Today is not the day when you have to put it on in a minute," Poulsen, a fire department captain, explains to his Roy High School students. That day will come, though, and after a member of the department demonstrates his ability to don the gear over his street clothes in just 38 seconds, the students give it a try.

Poulsen's may not be a typical class, focused on the finer points of literary classics, say, or the periodic table of elements. In fact, it's the first high school offering of its type in Weber County and across northern Utah, aiming to give students a taste of what being a firefighter is like.

Whatever the case, school officials say the class has an important place in the lineup of course offerings. Like classes on welding, health sciences and business, it gives students — 30 or so are in Poulsen's course — a window into a potential career after high school.

"We call them pathways. It gives you an opportunity to see what you can do as to future education or a career," said Rod Belnap, director of career and technical education for the Weber School District. "An exploration."

Notably, Poulsen sees the class as a way to drum up interest in firefighting, countering the recruitment and retention woes faced by many fire departments across Weber County and beyond.

"That's really the big thing because we're trying to build our own... We want to build our own," said Poulsen, who approached school officials about offering the class.

If even just three students per class pursue a career in firefighting, he'd consider it a huge success. And there definitely seems to be interest among students in Poulsen's class in going the firefighting route.

"A lot in my family have been firefighters, so I thought it would be cool," said Jared Knable, a senior. He previously lived in California, which has its share of devastating wildfires and firemen to combat them, "so everyone has a big respect for firefighters."

But even if they don't go into firefighting, students can get plenty out of the class. They're learning the sort of interviewing process firefighters go through, which can be applicable later on in seeking out any job, Poulsen said. They're learning things that can serve them in other careers in emergency services.

Roy High Fire Class 04

Roy Fire Department Captain Jason Poulsen, instructor of the Roy High School Fire Science Class, tours his students around the Roy City Fire Department on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019.

More generally, the class, like any educational experience, also expands their base of knowledge, Belnap said. More particularly, it gives them a different sort of experience, with part of their time spent in a traditional classroom setting and part of it at the main Roy firehouse at 5051 S. 1900 West, a short walk from Roy High School.

"I feel it's really hands-on so we get a lot of experience," said Timarie Painter, a senior.

It's the third week of classes at Roy High School, and Poulsen, who's also taught a paramedic class at Weber High School, says the students will get more of that. "They'll wash the trucks. They'll load hoses. They'll check equipment," he said.

The curriculum, mirroring offerings at Utah Valley University and Davis Technical College, is a prerequisite to the more formal training would-be firefighters must complete to get jobs in fire departments, Poulsen said. That appeals to Jared.

"I'll be ahead of the game," he said, in pursuing a firefighting career.

Beyond that, the students are learning other facets of firefighting — terminology applicable to burning structures, how to assess the gravity of emergency calls and more.

"It seems like everyday I'm learning something," said Taylor Gordon, a senior.

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