“I have seven rookies - they’ve been here 11 weeks,” said SCFD Assistant Fire Chief Kenny West. “Normally we go about 12 weeks, but with the holidays at the end and beginning of the year, we’ve still got about two and half weeks to go. We’ll be covering first-responder training - that’s first aid - and that’s about 40 hours.”
Upon completion, the new recruits will then be subjected to testing covering all aspects of their training.
“We’ll take everything they’ve learned over the past weeks and we’ll put together scenarios like we did today (at the SCFD burn building), where they’ll be able to use pretty much any of the skills they’ve learned,” West said. “It can include ladder work, working as a team with their equipment on, maybe going in and ventilating a roof and possibly rescuing a victim - it can be anything they might use in the course of any day working here at the Fire Department.”
West went on to say that the main focus of the recruits’ training is safety.
“Our primary goal is to have them prepared so that when they go to any call, they can handle it safely and get back to the station. We try to train them so they can do what they have to do and be safe doing it,” he said. “If things aren’t done safely, we can lose someone, lose property or even lose a victim. The purpose behind it is to save lives.”
At the end of this testing period, the new firefighters will be honored at a graduation ceremony.
“That’s the day for them. They bring their families and we have a little something for them,” West said. “It’s hard - it’s grueling - they’ve been through a lot.”
Although they will each be firefighters with the SCFD at that time, the new recruits will still face one final hurdle to fulfill their goals.
“A month or two after school, they’ll become state-certified. This is done through Georgia Firefighters Standards and Training - they certify all of the paid firefighters in the state of Georgia. They have to take a written test and score at least a 70 on it,” West said. “Then, they have to go through 18 additional stages of testing. You can go through the first 17 and get everything perfect, but if you make a mistake on the last one, you have to come back another day and do it again. It’s very stringent.”
West then reiterated that the goal of the SCFD is to train and prepare its firefighters for any situation they may possibly face in the line of duty.
“If we’re going to be able to serve the public, we have to do this,” he said. “Safety is embedded in everything we do. What you go for is habit - you want everything they do to be a safe habit.”