One of Devin Hale’s fondest memories of growing up in the south Puget Sound region was hanging out with firefighters while his mom was at work with the city of Kent.
“They were all really laid back and happy,” he said. “They enjoyed their jobs and still had time to pursue other interests.”
Now Hale, 18, is embarking on the first step toward being a volunteer firefighter for Clallam County Fire District 3.
Hale and 15 others began a 12-week recruit academy Jan. 5 that will teach them everything they need to know to be a volunteer firefighter.
“It really is amazing to see how much these students pick up in three months,” volunteer Capt. Steve Chinn said. “By the time they finish, they are completely different with everything they have learned. For several, this is just the first step in a career; for some it’s the step after retiring from other careers.”
Teaching by expertise
Assistant Chief Ben Andrews assigns instructors to cover each section of the academy, including orientation, history, hazardous materials operations, radio communications and fire suppression, based on their area of expertise.
“No one is the master of everything,” he said.
The academy is broken into different sections with lectures, reading assignments, quizzes and hands-on practicals.
Typically 14-35 recruits participate in the academy, which happens once a year. They start by learning basics like safety and first aid but by the end are suppressing live fires, Andrews said.
“We build on (the material) to eventually get into fire behavior and building construction to anticipate how fire will act and how buildings will react,” Andrews said.
Ready for action
Hale, who moved to Sequim from Chicago in June, said he gets an adrenaline rush just hearing stories about fighting fires and can’t wait to get some hands-on experience.
But during the first week of the academy, there was no such excitement.
“They told me it’d be the boring week,” he said.
Hale estimated he spent 16 hours studying for the academy and attending the lectures last week.
Lectures are scheduled two nights a week and Saturdays are reserved for all-day lectures and practicals.
Also a full-time student at Peninsula College, Hale said the academy is just like another college class.
But unlike his classes at P.C., this one will have him in a burning building in a matter of weeks.
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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