By Stephanie Schell/Who’s that editor
The fire extinguishers students see around campus do not magically appear. The once-a-month maintenance is the responsibility of four people.
Darren Winchester is one of those four people responsible for making our buildings safer.
Winchester took on another responsibility when he was sworn in as president of the Association of Fire Science Technicians.
Winchester was elected by members of AFST last semester. He was sworn in this semester.
He has been a member since fall 2003, but the organization has been around since adviser Shane LaCount was a student at Eastern, according to LaCount.
Winchester has seen minutes dated back to 1984.
Winchester oversees committees and chairs to ensure they do their jobs effectively in AFST.
He is a part of the Engine Five Committee. A committee, which is in charge of the maintenance for a gray truck that serves as a training tool for the 100 members of AFST and other fire-science students.
Winchester is responsible for keeping up the memorial for local firefighters outside the Ashland Building.
He is also the head contact of AFST for students interested in the organization.
Winchester was not always interested in fire-safety issues.
He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do while attending Richland Community College in Illinois.
A friend suggested a fire-science class, which Winchester described as “really interesting.”
Winchester comes from Decatur, Ill. where he is a volunteer firefighter for the Argenta-Oreana fire station.
There are many AFST members who volunteer at their hometown fire stations.
“We keep members up to speed for working at home,” Winchester said.
There are students from Pennsylvania, New York, Maine and Ohio who come to Eastern specifically for its fire-safety courses.
“It’s an opportunity to help people,” Winchester said. “You don’t get that opportunity in every field.”
Winchester is a fire and safety engineering technology major with an option in arson and explosion investigation.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to do police studies or fire study,” Winchester said.
With his chosen major and option, he is able to apply both aspects to his work.
“I will become too old to fight fire,” Winchester said.
He said with the investigating experience and option he can choose to do the fire chief side of the fire department one day.
Winchester said he wants to work at a fire station when he graduates in May.
Helping people is what drives Winchester.
This week, Winchester has the chance to help the community in a non emergency manner.
Oct. 3-9 is Fire Prevention Week.
The Richmond Fire Department is a regional training center that will hold safety programs for Fire Prevention Week.
According to Winchester, four or five sessions will be held for elementary school children to learn how to properly stop, drop and roll.
Winchester and other members of AFST are in charge of the sessions.
He will also teach children general fire-safety tips and how to properly exit a room if a fire ignites.
AFST not only helps the community but takes it upon itself to do fund-raising work for various organizations outside of Richmond.
The organization participated in the recent habitat for humanity project, raises money for toys at Christmas for children and has fund raisers for the families of fallen Sept. 11 firefighters of a South Bronx fire station.
Winchester said this fire station was not contributed to as well as other fire stations in New York.
Last year, they raised $2,000 for the families of the 11 firefighters lost from the South Bronx station.
Winchester said his life as a volunteer firefighter is exciting.
His life as a fire-safety student sounds exciting, as well.
His upper-level courses involve investigating actual explosion scenes, staged by one of the few men in the country licensed to do such a thing.
Tom Thurman has worked for the FBI as the chief of the bomb data center.
He analyzed the Oklahoma City bombing and the Unabomber case, according to Winchester.
“We have top-notch instructors,” Winchester said. “Ron Hopkins, Bill Abney — excellent instructors.”
Winchester said by the end of the semester there will be a building behind the Stratton Building specifically designed to hold burning explosions.
This sounds like a catastrophe in the making, but Winchester assures the building is a great and safe investment.
The life of a firefighter is an adrenaline-induced job that can be potentially dangerous but rewarding.
Winchester said anyone interested in becoming involved in the fire-safety program can contact him at email@example.com.
Reach Stephanie at firstname.lastname@example.org