My first official position with the Auburn Hills Fire Department, actually Pontiac Township back then, was as a fire cadet at the age of 15. I was fortunate in that I was able to attend the fire academy while I was a cadet. By the time I turned 18 years old I had already met the State of Michigan training requirements to be certified as a firefighter. I worked in the fire service for 8 years before life’s adventures took my career in the direction of law enforcement.
Upon accepting the promotion to Deputy Director of Emergency Services, I was asked if I would attend the fire academy again. At the time I thought it would be a good idea since 28 years had passed since I went through the academy and 20 years had gone by since I was last active in the fire service. I had done it before, how hard could it be, right? Well, let me say a lot has changed since I was a fire cadet and attended the fire academy the first time.
The fire academy started in early January of this year. Our class is scheduled to graduate on June 23, 2012. As a part-time academy, we attend class on Mondays and Thursdays for 3-4 hours of training each session and every other Saturday for up to 8 hours of training. All career fighters, paid-on-call, and volunteer firefighters must receive a minimum of 240 hours of training at a state accredited fire academy
As I said, a lot has changed since the first time I went through the fire academy. Sure we still put the “wet stuff on the red stuff” but there is a lot more to it these days. There has been significant improvement in the protective equipment we wear which allows us to work in areas where we may not have gone in the past. There is a new focus on self rescue and Rapid Intervention Teams, RIT. A RIT is made up of a least 2 firefighters who have advanced training in specific rescue techniques. The primary purpose of a RIT is to rescue firefighters who become lost or trapped in a fire. A dedicated RIT is assigned to all fire scenes.
On a personal level, the most significant changes for me the second time around is my perspective due to my position and my appreciation of the dedication of our paid-on-call personnel. I look at things a lot differently now when compared to that young teenager who attended the fire academy 28 years ago. The fire fighting standards and guidelines mean a lot more to me in my current role than they did way back then. As a young cadet I did not have to juggle the fire academy with the demands of a family and a full-time job. The second time around I have a wife, teenage son, a pre-teen daughter and all the challenges of getting them from one activity to another after school.
Before it was just me, now I have a family, a home and a new job. Things certainly are different this time. I am fortunate to have a very supportive wife and children. In addition to all of the hours attending the fire academy I spend several hours a week doing homework preparing for the next class.
As required by the State of Michigan, all of our new firefighters must attend the fire academy if they have not already done so. They must also obtain their state license as an Emergency Medical Technician which is an additional 6 months of training, two nights a week plus every other weekend. Like me, (the second time around) most of our paid on call firefighters have a full-time job and a family that they must tend to while attending the required training to be a certified firefighter. This is a considerable challenge for the individual and their family. Having experienced the fire academy at a more “mature age” I now have a new perspective and profound respect for how challenging it is to actually become a firefighter in Auburn Hills. Individuals who decide to take on this challenge and are able to balance the demands of their personal life with the demands of the required training regimen have my sincere appreciation. To all of our paid on call personnel who sacrifice time at home to attend all of the required training and providing service to the community we serve, thank you!
The fire academy experience the second time around has been challenging but very rewarding. I am attending the academy with 3 other firefighters from Auburn Hills. It has been nice to train with our new firefighters as well as the firefighters and instructors from several other fire departments in the area. Did I mention our class graduates June 23rd ?