Four firefighting recruits joked on Friday night about being eager to get inside the training building and closer to the flames on an unseasonably chilly night in Calhoun last week.
Calhoun Deputy Fire Chief Terry Mills said the cold and the spitting rain that covered the area during the overnight training event could add another element to the various exercises the trainees would be going through.
“They’ll have different scenarios they’ll have to go through. They’ll have to go in and find a victim or go in and find the source of the fire,” Mills said.
Three Calhoun and one Chatsworth firefighting recruit have less than a week until they graduate the eight-week training school. The early weeks are spent on book work, explained Training Chief Chris Cox, with the final weeks being more hands on.
“All that stuff we learned and practiced we’re putting into work,” Cox said.
The event on Friday night was intended as a 24-hour simulation of what an actual shift could be like for local firefighters. The recruits started the day early Friday morning, then had a few hours of down time, and then returned to the fire department’s training facility to put in work until about 4 a.m. Saturday.
The interior of the multi-level metal building on Executive Drive can be rearranged to set up different situations for the trainees to have to deal with. The idea is to give the new guys unique experiences but to also make them deal with those challenges while physically and mentally tired. Mills said that’s important because they will eventually experience that same thing on the job.
“It doesn’t matter that you’ve been at work for 12 hours, you still have to go fight that fire,” he said.
The training center was bustling with seasoned firefighters as well on Friday, some on shift and some volunteering their time to help their recruits. Cox said that help is invaluable in setting up the various scenarios for the recruits.
“It takes a lot of people to make this go,” said Cox. “They’ll get a taste of working all night. There are a whole lot of different scenarios and things we can do.”
Mills said this is the second time within the last year or so that the city fire department has ran a training school. He said they only run them when they need new firefighters, and two of their firefighters retired recently, with a third coming soon.
Mills also expects future retirements will result in the need for a lot of hiring in the years to come. He predicts that with six to eight years that the department will see about a 50% turnover in staff as people retire.
Cox noted that this particular class of recruits has been fortunate to get some additional hands-on training at an old house that is set for demolition, thanks to Hamilton Health Care. The medical group purchased some land locally and are planning to remove the home there, but they granted the fire department access to train inside the structure the mean time.
“We can learn techniques here,” said Cox, referring to the training center. “But up there we can actually go in an cut holes in the walls.”
The firefighting recruits will finish their training and graduate later this week.