Eight graduate from first Citizen Fire Academy
Eight local residents completed the first ever Citizen Fire Academy put on by the Merrill Fire Department. Over the past 10 weeks, the students got a hands-on look at the work that firefighters do and the training they go through.
The students go to try their hands at everything from vehicle extrication to working inside a burning building.
“I wanted to know how the fire department worked,” said student John McGuire. “I do a lot of property management and I wanted to get some training on how to help people out.”
Holly Lange said the experience was enlightening.
“I have a lot of friends and family who are volunteer firefighters,” she said. “I wanted to understand better what they go through.”
For McGuire, using the specialized equipment for vehicle extrication was a high point.
“We got hands on with everything,” he said. “It was definitely a good experience.”
“We got use all the big equipment,” Lange added. “It’s heavy.”
By practicing what firefighters do when a fire call comes in, including putting on their turnout gear, Lange got a better appreciation for their fast response times. On a recent house fire, Merrill firefighters were on the scene within just a few minutes of the call.
“They had water on the fire in seven minutes,” Lange said. “Fortunately, we did not have to practice that.”
Cana Laska, who recently moved to the area from Sheboygan, saw the class as a way to get better engaged in her new community. She came away with a greater respect for the work that firefighters do. Citizens should stay clear of fire scenes and let the firefighters do their jobs, she added.
“For me the class was about learning how much I didn’t know,” she said.
The 10-week course was designed to increase awareness about the Merrill Fire Department with local residents, while increasing fire and safety awareness. Along with the hands-on exercises, the students spent time learning about the organization and administration of the fire department, budgeting, communications, and its various roles in the community such as public education and fire inspections.
“Our end game is we wanted to bring knowledge to citizens about what the fire department is all about,” Merrill Fire Chief Dave Savone said. “As a fire department, we’re excited that we ended up with eight that finished the Fire Academy and we’re excited that they have a better understanding of what fire service and EMS is all about.”
Savone said the department plans to offer this type of community education program on an annual basis. Next year may offer another Citizen Fire Academy or a Junior Fire Academy program for high school students who may be interested in firefighting as a profession.