A firefighter has to go through extension training whether they’re a rookie or a veteran in the department.
The Tahlequah Fire Department is a combination of full-time and volunteer firefighters, and the training is just as demanding for those who do both.
“We hold our volunteers to a higher standard, as our fire is just as hot for a full-time and volunteers, so we train them to the same level and our expectations are the same,” said Assistant Fire Chief Mark Whittmore.
Some departments require applicants to be at least 18 years old. However, those interested at TFD have to be at least 21.
During the course of the first year, a firefighter must complete 144 hours of basic training.
“Firefighter 1 is about a three-month span where they met online and then did the practical skills of it,” said Whittmore.
Trainees must take a hazmat course that is 16 hours of awareness and 40 hours of operations.
While it's protocol for emergency personnel to respond to every structure fire call, along with the fire department, firefighters are also trained to treat burn wounds in the event EMS aren't immediately on the scene.
“There’s been a lot of training going on this year and our firefighters who are EMR are doing continuing education every two years,” said Whittmore. “We’ll offer in-house training and we’ll cover: a swift-water rescue day, a live fire day, an auto extrication day, and a ropes course day quarterly.”
Most of the classroom portion of training is done at the Fire Training Center in Tahlequah.
“The burn tower is where we do the live fire portion, and with swift-water rescue training, we actually go to the [Illinois] River. If it’s summertime and the water is down a little bit, they’ll go below the dam where they’re letting water out to use a good current to train,” said Whittmore.
For the auto extrication training, firefighters will cut into vehicles either at the training center or a recycling yard.
“[Oklahoma State University] came in and taught a heavy rescue class and they arranged getting semis and a tractor out there,” he said.
Those who are EMR trained must maintain a state license and take a 16-hour refresher course.
A second part to the training series will focus on law enforcement and will be in the Friday, June 11 edition.