Bullard Fire Chief Gary Simpson (right) instructs Northeast Texas Fire & EMS Training Academy students to put out a car fire during the Real World exercise. Chief Simpson was sponsored by Bullard to assist in training the students.
Photo By Larry Davlin

Fire Academy Recruits Get a Taste of What It's Like Battling Blazes In THE REAL WORLD

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

Jan. 27, 2008 - The recruits in Northeast Texas Fire Training Academy got a taste of what life as a firefighter is really like this week during Real World Training.

With 10 weeks remaining in the class, the recruits were divided into two groups who spent Sunday through Wednesday in "real world" environments, "on call" 24 hours a day to respond to various simulated situations designed to test their knowledge of curriculum, knowledge and proper use of equipment, and area and environment orientation - the ability to respond in various conditions to a number of situations.

"We had 26 involved in two different shifts. Half stayed at Brinker [Volunteer Fire Department] station and the other half at the academy," said Larry Davlin, chief executive officer of Northeast Texas Fire & EMS Training Academy. "The Red Cross supplied us with cots for the recruits to sleep on."

The four-day event which ended Wednesday started Sunday afternoon. The recruits were put through their paces, responding to more than one call in the middle of the night. Learning to get up, suit up and quickly respond in full fire apparatus was part of the experience, as was getting up at midnight and 3 a.m. when the fire tones go off, then being disregarded just prior to the location they were dispatched to.

The recruits found out what it was like to battle one blaze, return to the station and get bumped out on another call before they finish showering off the soot and ash from the previous call. Some of the live events involved a propane tank and car fire.

They learned that some days are just chock full of activity with numerous calls one after the other, or in some cases at the same time. Other days, extended periods of time between are best used cleaning up the station, checking and repair equipment and gear and making sure everything is ready and in condition for the next call, and catching up on chores at the station.

"Going in they know that they'll participate in 'real world' scheduled activities but don't know the scenarios," Davlin said. "Among the skills, it teaches them how to work together as a department, to work as a shift. We prepare them first for safety, and test them on area orientation, environment and equipment. They've been taught how to use certain tools within a fire department, equipment such as hoses."

The academy generally schedules "real world days" just past the half-way mark during the course. The first half of the class gives them the basic information, including skills instruction with the book. The second half the recruits will be doing more skills training, lots of hands on work and practice to help prepare them for the test administered by the state commission which they must pass in order to get their basic firefighting certification. Testing at the half-way point gives the recruits a good idea of what the "real world" of firefighting is like, but also shows the recruits and instructors areas in which the recruits need more intensive training and focus.

Like the real world, where the recruits were required to know all of the information from the book because they go in not know what will be needed, the recruits will be need to know all of the class curriculum and will be tests on three to four areas and skills on the state test, they just won't know which skills will be used.

More information about the fire academy, visit www.fireskillsonline.com.

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