RED OAK — Even first responders can use a helping hand every once in awhile, but it is even more convenient when those hands can weld, too.

A compilation of Red Oak FFA agriculture students recently put the final touches on a fire simulator they constructed for the Red Oak Fire Department and donated the year-long project during the “season of giving" on Wednesday, Dec. 7. Red Oak High School ag teacher and FFA sponsor, Jake Mullican, along with his welding students, presented four ROFD firefighters with the completed simulator, which also seconds as a trailer so it can be moved and adjusted properly.

Mullican previously told the WDL, “We got with Fire Chief Eric Thompson and they had a structure that was in place, but it needed to be finished out. The firefighters will now be able to use it and simulate climbing to the pitch of a roof.

"They’ll have a prop fan where they can use their chainsaw to cut through the roof and allow the roof to vent or to pass tools through. There will be a door simulator where they can practice entry if it was a real fire and break through it. There will also be an option on there where they’ll be able to use their saws to cut through a deadbolt. There’s a window simulator so they can practice entering through a window. It has an observation stand so that person who is in charge of training can supervise the firefighters who are doing the drills.”

Junior welding student Andrew Valdez contributed to the construction of simulator over the last 12 months.

“I mainly focused on working on the doorway, the window and helping with the ladder. It helped teach me how to weld with a MIG. We finished building it last month and then took it to get painted. It turned out better than I thought it would,” Valdez stated.

On behalf of the ROFD, Captain David Petricca and fighters Tyler Griffith, Jarred Ussery and Randy Clark accepted the donation.

“We are happy the school district was nice enough to let the ag department complete it. They’ve worked two semesters on it, and we can now use it as a ventilation simulator for roof operations, bail out drills for the windows, forcible entry for the door and many applications of firefighting,” Petricca said.

The simulator is the first that the department has ever had and the Red Oak FFA was humbled to provide their friends with the service.

“We are very grateful the Red Oak Fire Department gave our students an opportunity to employ the skill they acquire in the classroom to a community project like this," Mullican said. "It was a community project because not only did we get involved but we also had help from Rainbow Paint and Body Shop here in Red Oak, as well as Foxworth and Gilbreath who donated items towards this build. The kids have been working on it virtually every day for a year. It was designed from the ground up."

He also noted that the students made sure they included every detail and element needed for the simulator for proper firefighting training.

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Kelsey Poynor, @KPoynor_WDL

(469) 517-1454