Sunday, September 13, 2009

Teaching Neo-Newbies

I look out over the classroom and count twenty three young, attentive faces. As an ice breaker, I ask how many of this captive audience is over twenty five. Two raise their hands. I then ask how many are over twenty one. The overwhelming majority of hands are raised. How many still live at home? All but six are raised. The last question - How many of you have had any other fire service experience? Two hands are raised. To these people, I am not Captain Schmoe, I am Chief Schmoe.

The Pretty Small Fire Department is a mostly volunteer department located within a few hours of my home. It is in a very upscale community with a very low-scale tax base. Everybody below the rank of Captain is volunteer, Everybody at or above the rank of captain is at least part-time paid.. The Chief of the department is full time, as is the secretary and the fire marshal.

I have worked there part-time for about ten years. My role is primarily a prevention role. I also serve as the duty officer when I am there and teach a few classes in the academy twice a year. I enjoy seeing the young people come into the Pretty Small Fire Dept, receive the training and then get hired full time in the various departments within our region. The Kinda Big Fire Protection District has hired three people from the Pretty Small Fire Dept..over the last ten years, I have written letters of recommendation for two of the three. I would have written one for the third had I been All three have worked out well with the K.B.F.P.D.  Two of the three are considered "Studs" within the organization and I feel proud that we have hired all three.

The Pretty Small Fire Dept. has produced firefighters for almost every fire department within a hundred miles, some even farther. The chiefs of the Very Big County Fire Department and the Big City Fire Department have sent their sons to go through our program. It is a win-win situation as the community gets a low cost fire protection system and the firefighters get to build their resume and gain valuable experience.

The youthful nature of this class is typical, as it requires a significant time commitment. Academy attendees are required to spend entire weekends in the academy for about five months, then commit to donating one twenty-for hour shift a week. The recruits and their families pay a price, hoping for a full time fire department job later. Most, if they stick it out, will succeed in one form or another. Some will end up working for large departments, others with smaller departments. Some may end up working for Indian Reservation Fire Departments or for Industrial Fire Brigades. Some have ended up working for contractors, providing fire protection to U.S. interests overseas.

The payoff was evident yesterday as a knock on thr classroom door occurred while I was teaching the academy. One of the volunteers was turning in his gear, as he starts his new gig as a paid firefighter on Monday. I introduced him to the class and I congratulated him on his success in this difficult economic time.

Oddly enough, he is getting hired by a department next to the Kinda Big Fire Protection District. It is likely that I will run into him on major calls. It will be bittersweet,  knowing he is a product of the Pretty Small Fire Department, yet knowing how young he is and how old I am.

As I look out over the young attentive audience, I see myself almost thirty years ago, How fast it has gone by.
Good luck to the Pretty Small Fire Dept. class number forty three.

Thanks for reading,.

1 comment:

  1. I've got a question for you Capt. My kid wanted to go into fire rescue at the end of her second year of college. She was bored with school and wanted to get out into the world.
    I squashed her idea of going fire rescue "here" because firefighters are a dime a dozen. I know tons of kids that are fire certified and working at Chili's cooking or at the local food mart. There are just not enough FF jobs down here to support them all.
    Thats when she brought up the Navy and I was good with that choice.
    I told her after the Navy she could feel free to pursue FF at that time if she still wanted.
    Are there that many FF jobs out your way??