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Oxford Fire Department to help pay for firefighters with continuing education

Local firefighters will now be able to attend courses to increase their certification levels at no or little cost thanks to the Oxford Fire Department initiating a Tuition Assistance Program.

OFD has been encouraging firefighters to obtain certifications as emergency medical technicians and paramedics to help assist on life-threatening medical calls when the fire department might be able to respond to a call faster than an ambulance. Firefighters are often the first on scene at wreck calls and can quickly administer emergency first-aid and possible life-saving measures.

Oxford Fire Chief Mark Health said the primary focus is of the classes should be on EMT and Paramedic Certification, but other programs related to EMS, fire or emergency management will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The department will pay a qualifying firefighter up $1,500 toward the cost of the class or classes, books and other materials.

The firefighter must agree to pass the class with a “C” or better and remain working with OFD for at least two years after completing the course. If the firefighter fails, is terminated or leaves the department, they will have to reimburse OFD any money the fire department paid for the course.

“The main goal is to increase the training, job knowledge and skills for the employees within the Fire Department in managing Emergency Medical Service incidents,” Heath said.

Along with fighting fires, OFD provides air rescue firefighting, fire/arson investigation, first responder services, hazardous materials response, inspections, prevention, public education, as well as vehicle extrication and rescue per a city and county agreement.

“Additionally, as part of the ms task force system, we specialize in building/structural collapse, high angle rescue, trench rescue, wide-area search and rescue and water rescue,” Heath said.

The upfront tuition assistance program will become effective Oct. 1 when the new budget goes into effect.

The Oxford Board of Aldermen approved the new program unanimously last week during their regular meeting.

“Overall, providing tuition assistance with an emphasis on EMS allows us to have well-trained fire department employees to deliver enhanced services for the benefit of the citizens of Oxford.  “Both outgoing-Mayor Pat Patterson and Mayor-Elect Robyn Tannehill – as well as the Board of Alderman – support the program as they see the benefit of the Fire Department, Police Department, EMS agencies and other city departments working together to improve our overall emergency response capabilities.”