Volunteer firefighters gear up for training

BEDFORD – Lawrence County’s vibrant culture would not be possible without the support of emergency services. Highly-skilled fire personnel is essential for the well-being of all those within the county.

Becoming a volunteer firefighter requires extensive training, hard work, and dedication to the community. Lawrence County relies on volunteer firefighters to respond quickly to emergencies, perform firefighting duties, and provide assistance and support to career firefighters.

Volunteer firefighters receive no monetary compensation for their efforts, but all of them will say the chance to aid and serve their communities is an extremely rewarding experience.

On Saturday, 22 individuals took part in Firefighter Training 1 at the Indiana Firefighter Training Center in Murray Park.

Firefighters from Bedford Fire Department, Huron, Marion, Marshall Township, Mitchell, Oolitic, Perry, Pleasant Run, Shawswick, Orange County Rural District I, and Orleans Volunteer Fire Departments participated in a live-fire attack and climbed a ladder fully geared along with other training.

JD Ramsay, safety officer of Shawswick Volunteer Fire Department and is also a certified state instructor, said these firefighters will complete more than 180 hours of education and training before becoming firefighters.

“That does not include additional hours to become a first responder, EMT, or paramedic,” he added. “If they continue to become a paramedic they are looking at more than 5,000 more hours of training. These firefighters will put in the testing and training of a paid full-time firefighter. The training and testing are not easy. They must be dedicated and committed to serving their departments and communities.”

Victoria Glass, of Orange County Rural District 1 climbs up a ladder in full gear as instructor JD Ramsay looks on. Photo by Heaven Cooper

Victoria Glass, of Orange County Rural District 1 became a firefighter because of her interest in structure and land fires.

“I am planning on advancing my training into the medical part of firefighting,” she added. “My husband has been a firefighter for more than 10 years.”

Glass was carrying more than 80 pounds on her back while climbing the ladder. She is one of six females in the class.

“We have more girls in this class than we have had in others,” added Ramsay.

Shawswick Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bobby Brown who is also a state instructor was preparing others in the class for a front-line fire attack.

Shawswick Chief and state instructor Bobby Brown instructs firefighters as they gear up for morning exercises. Photo by Heaven Cooper

Marion Township Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Jacob McMillen wanted to be a firefighter or police officer since he was a kid.

“I have always wanted to serve my community since 9/11,” said McMillen, who is 24 years old. “I plan to further my education and become a police officer, while still serving my community as a volunteer firefighter.”

Jacob McMillen laying out hoses to attack a fire that will be set in the training center.

Chief Brown said two teams will attack the blaze inside the training center. Some firefighters make the initial attack while others are on the rapid-intervention team.

“The rapid-intervention team (RIT) is the last hope that we have when immediate fire crews can’t affect the rescue or when the firefighter is unable to rescue him/herself. As a matter of fact, we should put even greater emphasis on it with the challenges that we face now when fighting fires,” Brown added.

The RIT team is called in. Photo by Heaven Cooper

These firefighters’ training will continue Firefighter Training 2 on Saturday, Dec. 18th at Shawswick Volunteer Fire Department. Recruits will undergo fire and vehicle extrication training.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter, the first thing you need to do is contact your local volunteer fire department. Someone at the department can then guide you through the requirements and application process, which varies from department to department.

Firefighting duties are both challenging and physical. In emergency situations, volunteer firefighters should expect to extinguish and prevent fires as well as administer first aid. Duties also include rescuing victims from cars or buildings, carrying fire hoses up stairs or ladders, and breaking down doors. Volunteer firefighters usually perform all of these tasks while wearing heavy protective clothing in dangerous, smoky, and hot environments.

But volunteer firefighters do not spend all of their time under pressure in dangerous emergency situations. Non-emergency tasks include performing various routine tasks around the firehouse, such as maintaining the building facilities and emergency vehicles and giving firehouse tours and fire prevention talks to area schools. Volunteer firefighters must also set aside time for further training so that they can practice and thoroughly understand firefighting procedures, operational techniques, and first aid methods.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer fire department contact your township volunteer fire department for more information.