After 12 weeks of reading, studying, hauling fire hoses, climbing ladders, cutting steel, literally dragging each other around and so much more, Clallam County Fire District 3’s newest group of fire recruits graduated.
Nicknamed the “Dirty Dozen,” the volunteer firefighter recruits showed an incredible transition over the course of their training, said Volunteer Coordinator and Fire Captain Steve Chinn.
“I was on vacation in January when they started and when I got back I thought, ‘Jeez, what a mess,’” Chinn said at the recruit’s April 6 graduation.
Chinn said he saw the group transition from 12 individuals to one team.
“They have gone beyond themselves and are supporting each other,” he said.
On April 9 the recruits met at the former Fairview Elementary School grounds for their final fire drill of the academy.
A burn box set up to simulate a house was lit on fire and the recruits, in teams of two with two more as backup, learned how to identify the best way to attack the fire and how to extinguish it.
Smoke billowed out of the box as they sprayed water on the flames and shot out a hatch to mimic a window. Only a handful of firefighters with District 3 are trained in teaching the burn box fire attack and they shouted instructions throughout the process, going to the front lines with the recruits.
Lorene McCreary, one of the newly graduated recruits, was one of the first in the burn box. The drill tapped into her interest in fire behavior, she said.
Learning how to vent a fire was one of the most interesting parts of the 12-week course, McCreary said.
“You can figure out how stuff is built, where you need to be to fight the fire and how best to help people.”
The most difficult part of the course was learning search and rescue, she said. At one point recruits had to black out their masks and crawl around trying to find a body without knowing the layout of a room and dragging that body to safety. Learning how to communicate with each other was difficult, she said.
Chinn said he made phone calls to 42 prospective recruits in September. The first informational meeting had 26 people in attendance, all interested in participating in the recruit academy.
By the time recruits had to pass a physical test to gain entrance to the academy, there were 16 people. By graduation there were 12, he said.
Clallam County Fire District 3 Chief Steve Vogel addressed the dozen graduates at the ceremony and gave them some advice.
Instead of telling them to jump right in to the drills, meetings and endless calls that volunteers respond to, Vogel told the recruits to go home and spend time with their families, who gave them up during the academy.
Vogel told the recruits to pace themselves, never take the burden of a call home and be careful not to burn themselves or their families out.
“Serve your neighbors and your community well,” he said.
Reach Amanda Winters at email@example.com.