BLM-Arizona Honors Inner City Youth Grads in Fire Program
On March 28, BLM-Arizona honored the graduating class from Phoenix’s Franklin Police and Fire High School. Eighteen youth completed the BLM sponsored wildland firefighting program, marking the 10th anniversary partnership with the Phoenix Union School District. The graduating class completed a 40 hour Type II Firefighters course, earning eligibility for entry-level federal employment.
BLM-Arizona State Director Ray Suazo delivered the key note address speaking in Spanish to the largely urban crowd. He noted that he began his federal career as a GS 3 seasonal firefighter. Suazo said, “This offers you so many opportunities. Your foot is in the door and your desire represents your community and families well.” Suazo praised BLM Instructor Dean Fernandez and Franklin’s Richard Verduzco for recognizing that youth represent the future.
Franklin Principal Lorenzo Cabrera echoed the sentiment, saying, “This partnership shaped the hearts and minds of these students. This is the best fire management program in Arizona, and we couldn’t have achieved it without the BLM, the instructors, parents, and especially the graduates.” In order to graduate, the students had to endure not only the 40-hour classroom training, they also completed a tough field day building fire lines in rugged terrain by digging through a hard desert floor, handling fire starters, practicing survival in shelters, and carrying fire hose long distances.
Graduate Abner Lopez, 17, said, “ I knew I wanted to be a firefighter as a kid, the instructor and the program helped me build my focus, leadership skills, and teamwork skills.” Lopez is now enlisted in the Air Force and hopes to pursue his firefighting goals in the military.