A program with !MPACT
July 1, 2014
By Neil Pierson
Firefighters bring career perspectives to students
If Chris Tarkir hadn’t been tenacious, he likely never would have landed what he calls his “dream job” with Eastside Fire & Rescue.
“It’s about believing in yourself, and probably the biggest characteristic a person has to have is that you can’t take no for an answer,” Tarkir told a group of students during a June 5 visit to Beaver Lake Middle School’s !MPACT after-school program.
Four of the Issaquah School District’s five middle schools offer !MPACT as a safe haven for students with working parents. The program generally runs until 6 p.m. on weekdays, and costs between $95 and $230 a month, depending on how often a child attends.
Elijah Myles, Beaver Lake’s !MPACT site manager, said the program isn’t simply a daycare service. While video games, movies and music are part of the entertainment docket, the school also offers a bushel of educational activities, including a series of career-centered enrichment events that happen about once a month.
Beaver Lake’s final enrichment event of the school year was a visit from EFR’s Tarkir, Ryan Hendricks and Jordan Simmonds. The three firefighters spoke with the students about their jobs, and then performed some hands-on demonstrations.
Tarkir, 29, played collegiate and professional hockey, and said he turned to the fire service five years ago because he was attracted to a team-oriented environment. Becoming a firefighter was a tall order, he said, and he took roughly 25 tests over a two-year period before EFR hired him.
“You have to persevere and you have to stay strong through the whole thing,” he told the students. “You’re going to take the bumps in the road, but don’t let those knock you down.”
Simmonds explained the multitude of rescue situations firefighters have to prepare for. Along with responding to structure and wildland fires, they help those who are sick or injured, and extricate people trapped in vehicles and buildings.
Recently, Simmonds said, he and his crewmates responded to a vehicle crash on 228th Avenue in Sammamish. A car had driven through an aluminum railing and was swaying on the edge of a 10-foot drop next to an office building.
“Those are really kind of complicated situations, but we’re professionals and that’s what we do,” Simmonds said. “It’s not fun to work on stuff like that, but we get to help people that are in situations like that.”
Hendricks said EFR has several special-response squads, including swift-water rescue, high-angle rope rescue and handling of hazardous materials.
All firefighters are certified emergency medical technicians, and EFR has two paramedic units that have received advanced medical training, Hendricks said. They can do things like intubate a patient who isn’t breathing, or perform electrocardiograms on a possible heart attack victim.
“These guys are very highly trained and they’re able to help people live that wouldn’t have lived otherwise,” Hendricks said, referring to the paramedics as “mobile doctors.”
After the firefighters demonstrated how to set up and operate hoses on their engine truck, the students were invited to help put the equipment away.
Myles has brought in professionals from various fields throughout the year for Beaver Lake’s enrichment activities.
Greg Thornton, a Seattle-based artist who operates Black Iconic T-Shirts, visited several times to help the students create self-portraits. The art was eventually pressed onto shirts, which were framed and displayed at the artEAST gallery in Issaquah.
“It was kind of emotional, because a lot of went really deep,” Myles said of the students, “which made everything worthwhile because, it’s like, that’s why I’m here. I’m here to inspire and touch lives.”
Peter Coulter, executive chef for Schwartz Brothers Restaurants — which includes Daniel’s Broiler and Chandler’s Crabhouse — stopped by for a lesson in culinary arts. The students built flavor bases from broth, cut fruits and vegetables, and decorated cupcakes.
“These are kind of outstanding moments that might stick in their head and show them that anything is possible,” Myles said.
The firefighters’ visit had its desired affect on at least a few students.
“I had no idea they had ropes to keep a car from teetering,” sixth-grader Michael Oshima said. “My grandfather is a firefighter, so I know a lot of this stuff. I never knew how to roll up a hose, so I learned that.”
“I think it’s really awesome that they have moveable doctors,” sixth-grader Rohini Achal said, referring to the paramedics. “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, so this makes me feel like I could be a firefighter if I wanted to.”