Copperas Cove Fire Capt. Carla Polidoro holds up an application to the Citizens Fire Academy in March. It will be Polidoro's first time running the entire academy. Jokingly, she admits to feeling like she needs to be out on the corner in boots and a fire hat telling people about it.

Cathy Stockman attended the Police and Citizens Fire Academy more than 10 years ago. It was an attempt, she said, to fill a void after her husband retired from the military. The switch to civilian life and not having a familiar close-knit military family took awhile to adjust to.

“I remember the night we went to the police academy class, we felt like there was something missing,” she said, explaining the lack of connection she and her husband felt with the community.

After attending the academy, Stockman and her husband signed up for the Citizens Fire Academy, where they found their “fit” and ended up making a lot of friends.

The Citizen Fire Academy is now in its 14th year and under new leadership. However, it is still a place where community members and firefighters can meet to shake off some of the mystery around firefighting and educate the community on fire prevention, said Mike Fleming, interim fire chief of the Copperas Cove Fire Department.

In the middle of reallocating bureaucratic responsibilities within the station, Fleming, who originally started the program, will pass the torch this year to Fire Capt. Carla Polidoro.

The academy, which consists of a seven-week-long, three-hour-per-week course, begins Thursday. Participants must be older than 18, and will receive hands-on experience and fire prevention education, Polidoro said.

“On graduation day or field day we let them put out fires, crawl through a (simulated) burning building, and tear a car apart with the jaws of life,” she said.

After attending the academy, Stockman founded the Citizens Fire and Public Safety Volunteer association, a nonprofit organization that supports all first responders in the area.

Another fire academy attendee began volunteering for a station in Kempner after attending the academy a couple of years ago, Polidoro said.

“You just wouldn’t believe all of what they do,” Stockman said.

Still incorporating what she learned at the academy, Stockman passed on her knowledge to her church friends, teaching them how to make emergency preparation kits of food and water that can sustain someone up to 72 hours.

“Anytime you learn something and pass it on to others, everyone benefits,” she said.

Cove’s Citizens Fire Academy is still open for enrollment. Call 254-547-2514.

Contact Courtney Griffin at or 254-501-7559

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