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Recruits Rise to Fire Challenge

July 18, 2002

Last week, members of Loudoun County Fire and Rescue’s 6th Recruit Class worked until late evening extinguishing fires and providing emergency medical services to sick and injured people — and they hadn’t even graduated.

The recruits, who graduate June 21, participated in the “Fire-EMS Challenge” on June 7 at the Loudoun County Fire-Rescue Training Center in Leesburg. “They have to do everything just like if it was a real call,” said Recruiting Advisor Roger Martin.

Dispatchers Michelle Dehoyos and Peggy Childs called recruits to the scene of simulated emergencies, such as house, apartment, and car fires, a stabbing, diabetic emergency and multiple car accident.

RECRUITS WILL GRADUATE as firefighters and basic emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and receive Firefighter 1 and 2 certification, EMT-basic certification, and some additional specialized certification.

The 20-week class included 1-1/2 hours of daily mandatory physical training, learning how to operate and maintain a variety of firefighting and rescue equipment, practical firefighting training in the “burn facility”, and learning other skills such as mapping, which requires memorizing detailed, specially designed street maps to reach an address or find a fire hydrant quickly.

Training standards were the same for men and women. “It’s harder for the women … but it’s all what the woman wants to make of it,” said Jada Nichols, a former volunteer firefighter whose husband, Mike Nichols, is a recruit.

RECRUITS CHOSE careers in fire and rescue for different reasons. Nathan Martin left a career in information technology for a firefighting career because he “enjoyed volunteering [for the fire department] more than work.” Nathan Demaree said it was the “brotherhood and sisterhood” between firefighters that steered him away from a potential military career.

Capt. Wayne Anderson stressed the importance of learning to work together. “You take 20 recruits from different jurisdictions and backgrounds and teach them discipline … they learn to work as a team and function as a unit,” said Anderson.

Instructor and firefighting veteran Jim Kaiser, who supervised the recruits during firefighting exercises, said that regardless of precautions, firefighting is dangerous and hard on the body. “I don’t know any long-term firefighter who worked for 20-30 years that doesn’t have some permanent injury,” said Kaiser. Kaiser also had some advice for the public. “Never get near a burning car, because airbags can blow up and spray you with hot glass.” Kaiser also appealed to drivers to use caution near firefighters and “give them some room” to work.

Instructor William Burris described the night’s last exercise, extinguishing a fire caused by a car colliding with a propane tank, as “one of the most dangerous situations.”