Career technical education has been one of Gadsden City High School’s strengths during its existence. Students have an assortment of options that could prepare them for fulfilling and lucrative careers in business, computer, consumer, cosmetology and health fields, and high-profile construction, maintenance, repair and service areas like auto, electrical and HVAC.

Add firefighting to that list.

GCHS and the Gadsden Fire Department have teamed up on a new career tech course in the field, and students who complete it can be certified as volunteer firefighters.

They also, should they be interested in firefighting as a career, could complete a 160-hour (half the normal time) bridge training program to earn qualification for Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 jobs.

This year, three students took the course, which is based on similar courses being taught in Anniston and Pell City. Other GCHS students who have contemplated signing up made a field trip last week to the Gadsden Fire Training Center and got a tiny taste of the action. They went up 100 feet on a fire truck’s extension ladder, got to negotiate a smoke-filled training building using thermal cameras and use a Hurst tool on a car door, and experienced a simulated floor collapse.

The experience was an attention grabber, with many of the students intrigued more by the notion of helping others than the rush of excitement that can be produced by fighting fires. We think next year’s class roll will be a lot larger.

Of course Gadsden Fire Chief Stephen Carroll has an ulterior — and completely justified and understandable — motive in touting the program.

A prospective firefighter must be 18 years old, generally the age of a high school graduate. Carroll sees this as a potential pipeline for attracting good, young candidates, who aren’t (a.) raw rookies or (b.) complete strangers to those who’ll be evaluating their résumés, to his department.

The hope also is that candidates with roots here might be more inclined to pass up opportunities elsewhere and stay here. That certainly would be a good thing — as it would be in all the other career tech fields GCHS offers — but let’s also be realistic. Young people in particular have an innate desire to leave their nests and explore the beyond, regardless of how vibrant or dull those nests are.

Still, we see no downside to and multiple potential benefits from this program, even if students decide against firefighting as a primary career after completing it.

There are plenty of volunteer firefighting options in Etowah County — and those departments help a lot of people, too.