For the past nine weeks NCTV17 cameraman Carl Schultz and myself, along with ten others, have been learning the ropes of becoming a firefighter. So far we’ve learned about smoke behavior, search and rescue, hose and ladders, airpacks and hazmat.
Although I have always had a great appreciation for the work these men and women do on a daily basis, going through the Citizen Fire Academy (CFA) has really opened my eyes.
Not everyone can say they’ve had the chance to cut through inches of steel and completely tear apart a car using the Jaws of Life. While using the tools is a good stress reliever, and is actually kind of fun, the Jaws of Life can be very dangerous and if they are needed you know a car wreck is bad.
“You see the accidents, you see fire trucks out there,” said Pam LaFeber, CFA participant. “You see people being carted off and put in ambulances.”
“It’s been phenomenal,” said Patti Magnus, CFA participant. “I’ve had a great time doing it. What we did tonight, I hope I never have to see it again, but it’s been great.”
For week eight’s lesson, those of us who weren’t already got CPR certified and learned how to use an Automated External Defibrillator.
For our final class we got to pull up on the fire engine, gear up and put out a live fire in front of our family and friends. We also climbed 103 feet up the aerial ladder to the fourth floor of the burn tower. Once inside we searched for “victims.” With all the smoke from the fire downstairs, we had to wear our masks on the way down.
The final day was a great opportunity to show all of our families the skills we’ve learned and what we’ve done every Monday night for the past nine weeks.
“We came from Rhinelander, Wisconsin, I was extremely proud of her,” said John Houlihan, father of a CFA participant. “We thought that she’d stand there with a hose and just put a little fire out. We never thought that she’d do what we saw today.”
“I’ve never seen my wife get as dirty as she did today and be as garbed up as she is today,” said Roland Keller, husband of a CFA participant. “It was really kind of cool. She has to go home and take a shower though.”
Many will be taking the skills they picked up along the way to put towards a career.
“I’m going into teaching,” said Kelly Garrett, CFA participant. “Since I’m going into special education I want to give them the opportunity to say ‘Hey you can actually go beyond the limit and it’s hard work, but you can actually do this.’”
“It’s all things that I eventually want to do as a career,” said Eric Schultz, CFA participant. “It’s fun to see little tidbits of it and operate at least a little bit of what I hope to be doing later.”
The final day ended with a graduation where we each got a framed certificate to show we completed the Citizen Fire Academy.
“You guys did awesome. That was a great class,” said Mark Ziemnik, Division Chief for the Naperville Fire Department. “I was very proud. I think a lot of you guys over came some things you were nervous about. I think you guys did awesome.”
The Naperville Fire Department holds one citizen academy per year and spots are already filling up for the next class. For more information visit Naperville.il.us.
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