PITTSBURGH-Community College of Allegheny County's Fire
Volunteer Education, Service & Training Scholarship (FireVEST)
program is now in its eighth year. More than 330 Allegheny County
volunteer firefighters have participated in this recruitment and
retention program. These scholarship recipients serve in 136 of the
county's 187 volunteer fire departments. The only program of its
kind in the state, FireVEST is a unique partnership between CCAC,
the Allegheny County Executive and the Allegheny County Fire
Academy. Individuals enrolled in the program receive a full
scholarship to any associate degree or certificate program at CCAC
as well as the highest level of training at the Allegheny County
Fire Academy in exchange for a five-year service commitment as a
volunteer firefighter within Allegheny County.
For Ryan Sergent, 23, and his brothers, Tyler and Nathan, both
22, FireVEST has provided an opportunity for a college education as
well as for advancement within the Richland Township Volunteer Fire
Department, where they have all served since the age of 14. The
brothers enrolled in the program in the fall of 2013 as first-time
CCAC students-Ryan in Fire Science Administration, Tyler in HVAC
and Nathan in Criminal Justice-at no cost to themselves or their
"If it wasn't for the program I probably wouldn't have gone
to school," said Ryan Sergent, who acquired valuable
knowledge in his studies for his job as an estimator for a
commercial door company. He and his brothers will complete their
commitment to the Richland VFD in the fall of 2018, but they don't
plan on quitting the department as long as they live in the
township, he said.
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald noted that the county's
volunteer fire departments protect more than 910,000 people and
save the county an estimated $60 million dollars a year. The
FireVEST program, he said, is helping the departments to meet the
constant challenge of staying fully staffed, well trained and ready
to respond at a moment's notice.
"In Pennsylvania, we know that 69% of all firefighters are
volunteers and that the number continues to decline. FireVEST was
created to incentivize those who may be thinking of getting
involved, and has been successful in providing resources and
training to those in our community who have made that commitment.
I'm delighted to see that so many people have benefitted from the
program over the last seven years and that its graduates have been
so successful. We owe them a debt of gratitude, and the FireVEST
program is just one way we can thank them for their work and
service as volunteer firefighters."
Mathew Davis, who became chief of the Dormont Volunteer Fire
Department in January, was one of the first FireVEST graduates,
earning an associate degree in Fire Science Administration from
CCAC in 2012. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Public
Administration with a concentration in Fire Service Administration
from Point Park University in 2014. Last year, Davis was accepted
into the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program and
also became a member of CCAC's Fire Science Administration advisory
committee. Davis has been instrumental in encouraging the members
of his department to take full advantage of the FireVEST program,
as he did.
Students can attend part time as long as they have at least one
credit-bearing course every fall and spring term and take
entry-level firefighting at the Allegheny County Fire Academy.
Applications for the FireVEST program are available at ccac.edu, search
keyword "FireVEST," or by contacting the Allegheny
County Fire Academy. Applications for the 2017 fall term must be
submitted or postmarked by May 15.
For additional information on the FireVEST program, contact
Sandy Bayer at the Allegheny County Fire Academy at 412.931.3158,
ext. 5 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: From the left, Tyler, Ryan and Nathan Sergent at the
Richland Township Volunteer Fire Department, where they use the
skills they acquired through the CCAC FireVEST Scholarship program.