Josh Whaley, Chief Executive Office and President of American Fire, is a 1997 Wallace State Community College graduate and members of his company were on campus recently, discussing career opportunities with current Wallace State students enrolled in welding, HVAC, mechatronics and engineering technology.

American Fire, headquartered in Birmingham, is a highly specialized provider of fire protection engineering, materials, installation, service, inspection, and commissioning services throughout the world. American Fire manages complex industrial, commercial and design/build fire protection projects, including sprinkler systems, fire pumps, ground storage tanks, underground piping, and special hazards.

“My career path started at Wallace State, and I feel a responsibility to give back. I want these students to understand the avenues they have available to be successful in any career. You can earn a two-year degree and be successful,” said Whaley, also a Hanceville High grad. “This is my hometown. I grew up here, so I’m always partial to this area and Wallace State. I didn’t have a career path until I got the training here within the drafting department.”

Because of his close ties to Wallace State and Cullman County, Whaley is overseeing an expansion of American Fire into Cullman. This new site will be tagged a Design and Training Center with hopes of recruiting Wallace State students to the company. It will be located on 4th Avenue in Cullman, next to Loft 212.

“We’re excited about the new location and the opportunities it will give Wallace State students. It’s closer for some of them than Birmingham,” Whaley said. “We also hope to establish an apprenticeship program in the future.”

Additionally, American Fire is planning to debut a full service office location Charlotte, N.C., in March.

Wallace State graduates and American Fire employees Justin Johns and Nathan Graves accompanied Whaley to campus. Johns is an engineering technician with American Fire and Graves is the Cullman Training Coordinator. Joseph Whitt, an American Fire Protection Engineer, was also present.

American Fire is a member of the National Fire Protection Association and a licensed engineering firm, featuring multiple licensed fire protection engineers and multiple NICET-certified design technicians. It’s also partners with CHA Consulting, Inc., a multi-disciplined engineering consultant consistently rated highly by the Engineering News-Record (ENR).

Whaley discussed specific job descriptions and expectations with the students, including the need for a fire protection installation technician and fire protection engineering technician. He also discussed the role of a fire alarm contractor, among other positions within the company.

“You can’t come here and earn a fire protection engineering degree, but you have the skills to fit needs in that direction. You’ll earn those skills within your programs,” Whaley said.

For more information about apprenticeship opportunities at Wallace State, please contact Christina Holmes at 256.352.8120 or

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