SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – At Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), a lieutenant with the Springfield Fire Department, is pursuing a degree through a program that draws full-time firefighters.

The Fire Protection and Safety Technology program has been allowing Nathan Lavallee, a firefighter since 2015, to study for his associate degree in spring 2023. The program is open to anyone interested in starting a career in firefighting, as well as full-time firefighters like Lavallee. Bernard J. Calvi, Springfield Fire Commissioner, is the department’s highest ranking official.

In the fire science program at STCC, “BJ” Calvi earned an associate’s degree. STCC has also awarded degrees to members of other fire departments in the region. Graduates also get prepared for other careers such as city, town, and state firefighting; military and airport first-responder positions; departmental or regional positions; fire investigation; and emergency medical services.

Lavalle, a former Army veteran that served in Afghanistan, saw the many benefits of enrolling in STCC’s program. A pay raise will be given to him, upon degree completion. He will apply lessons from the classroom to the real world of being a professional firefighter.

STCC’s program offered many benefits to Lavalle, a former Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. Upon completing his degree, he will receive a pay raise. During his career as a firefighter, he will be able to apply lessons from the classroom to the real world.“The classes are really designed to expand your knowledge of the fire service,” Lavallee said.

As a result of the degree, firefighters can be promoted. Moreover, the program helps him gain a better understanding of his job. “The program really breaks it down specifically into prevention, arson, HAZMAT (hazardous materials), every category,” he said.

As a result of taking classes like Building Construction and Firefighting Strategy and Tactics, Lavallee has become a better firefighter. “For me, it’s really opened my eyes to different aspects of the job,” he added. In the evening program at STCC, students are trained and educated as competent leaders in fire prevention, fire protection, and fire administration.

In the near future, the program anticipates having a blended option of online, hybrid, and in-person. In addition to being flexible, the program’s flexibility allows Lavallee to log on to do school work when he’s not on call, which works well for firefighters who work “four days on, four days off.”

Calvi says a degree from STCC can help a firefighter advance through the ranks. “STCC’s program opens doors for firefighters and also is a good value. My degree from STCC paved the way for me not only to further my education but to also become Fire Commissioner,” said Calvi, a 2001 graduate.

“We offer a strong educational experience in part because the instructors have been active firefighters and have served in leadership roles in communities,” said Peter Buonome, one of the instructors, is head of the Connecticut Fire Department Instructors Association.

“The faculty is great. They’re very knowledgeable. They know their craft and know their job,” Lavallee said. “They’re not only teaching you from the book, but they can give you life examples of things they’ve experienced and gone through and apply it to the classes. I think that helps a lot.”