Woodstock High School offering program for future firefighters

A Woodstock High School senior went into a burning building as part of a class. Tatum Schoonmaker is the first to do a live burn training exercise as part of the Cherokee County School District's firefighting pathway.

"It was a structural fire control, so we were going down into the basement of the burn building," said Tatum Schoonmaker, a Woodstock High School senior.

Surrounded by red-hot flames, Tatum kept her cool.

"There was honestly no nerves going into it, I trusted everyone that was doing it," said Tatum.

"It got up to around 1600 degrees there. She said ‘I got a little bit hot,’" said Jason Watkins her instructor.

Watkins is a former firefighter. He's now the instructor of the firefighting pathway program at Woodstock High School.

"They go through everything the recruits go through. A lot of time when we're here if the recruits are training they're training with the recruits," said Watkins.

"They use what they learn in the classroom and come out here and do it in real time and it's been successful," said Cherokee County Fire Chief Eddie Robinson.

Tatum and her classmate Merrick Duet have both met the national qualifications for firefighter 1 status.

Tatum is the first to participate in a live burn, one of the requirements to become a certified firefighter. Merrick didn't meet the age requirement.  

"Just watching her go through so quick and learning everything so quick, I'm proud," said Merrick.

Interestingly enough, before this class, neither student wanted to become a firefighter. That has changed.

"A lot of my family were like, are you sure you want to do this? Scared I was going to go into a burning building. But as long as I can help people, I want to make sure everyone is safe," said Merrick.

"Being able to go into the live burn, being with the recruits and with all the other firefighters has made me want to be a firefighter and now I can't see me doing anything else," said Tatum.

In Cherokee County, Woodstock High School is the only school that offers the firefighting pathway.  However, other Cherokee County students can get a similar experience by joining the fire explorers. You can find out more about on their website, joincherokeefire.com.