On the evening of Thursday Sept. 10th, the Merrill Fire Department will kick off the department’s first-ever Citizen Fire Academy (CFA).
According to Fire Chief Dave Savone, although new to MFD, the concept of a Citizen Fire Academy is anything but.
“Citizen Fire Academies have been around for the last 10-15 years. My previous department of Hoffman Estates, IL had their own academy for the last 10-12 years. I had assisted with a couple of the classes involved in those academies and saw the value of the learning experience to its participants. In turn, participants spread a positive message about the department in the local community.”
Savone relates a particular experience in which a group of former participants had formed an unofficial “alumni” group and worked together with the local community to purchase a valuable piece of equipment for one of the department’s med units.
“The Hoffman Estates academy really seemed to have an effect on those who participated. They seemed to take with them a great deal of positive from the experience. I would like to bring that same sort of experience to the Merrill community.” Savone adds.
“I think this will be a nice addition to the many great events we already have in the community such as Community Night Out and so forth.”
The CFA is open to anyone 21 years of age or older, but is limited to 12 participants. According to Savone, there are just two vacancies left.
“We have drawn a great response which I am pretty happy with. Even members of local media have joined which is great!”
The academy will run every Thursday from 6 PM-8 PM for nine weeks, with the tenth week consisting of graduation.
Citizens will experience and learn about a variety of concepts throughout the program, including Fire Apparatus Operations, Auto extrication and search and rescue. Many of these topics will be covered via hands-on experience at the NTC-Public Safety Center of Excellence using the same equipment, props and training aids members of the fire department train with on a regular basis such as a “burn tower”, breathing apparatus and theatrical smoke.
“We won’t put anyone in harm’s way of course, but we will do our best to give participants as realistic of a feel for what we do as possible.” Savone adds.
Each course will have a lead instructor and 1-3 assistants consisting of department members such as Captain Mike Drury, veteran firefighters including Rick Sparks and the department’s newest member; Firefighter/Paramedic Bryson Cruise.
“Virtually every member of the Merrill Fire Department will be involved in some manner.” Savone said.
At the culmination of the academy in late November, Savone hopes to have enlightened participants with a better knowledge of department operations and perhaps even pick-up a few new safety ideas for use in their every-day lives.
“I would like to see citizens gain better understanding of what fire service in the city of Merrill is all about.” Savone adds.
“Merrill fire service isn’t all about guys sitting around and playing checkers all day.. We are a full-service fire department with a variety of duties and tasks to fulfill on any given day. I would also like participants to gain a better long-term safety education, whether it be home safety or fire safety.”
“This is a great opportunity for us to be transparent about how we operate here at the Merrill Fire Department.”