Friday, October 31, 2014

Departments seek volunteer firefighters

Application process is now under way


By AMY BUSEK
Express Staff Writer

Ketchum firefighters work to douse a wintertime blaze in West Ketchum. Express file photo

How many hours a day do you spend goofing off? Now multiply that number by 365. Imagine spending a fraction of that time doing something authentic and directly beneficial to the community—and getting paid for it.
    Blaine County’s fire departments are looking to train and hire paid, on-call firefighters. Roughly 30 new firefighters are needed, according to Senior Lt. Tory Frank of the Ketchum Fire Department. Recruits are compensated per call and also for any training. Despite the fact that the positions are part-time, all fire departments within the county rely heavily on them. However, the commitment necessary is just 100 hours a year per firefighter.
    The term “volunteer firefighter” has different meanings across municipalities, Frank said. Most volunteer firefighters are paid per call, but in some smaller Idaho jurisdictions, they are truly volunteers in every sense of the word.
    “As a paid-on-call firefighter, you train with all members of the department and respond on calls when you are available to help,” said Richard Feldman, firefighter and EMT for 20 years with the Ketchum Fire Department. “It is an incredibly satisfying way to give back to the community, and quite frankly, it’s a lot of fun, too.”
    Squad Leader Brian Poster has two decades-worth of experience as a Ketchum volunteer firefighter and cites his fellow Ketchum firefighters as some of his best friends. He owns a local construction company and has made a habit of hiring his fellow firefighters.
    “This is my social life,” he said. “We drink beer after drills, go on motorcycle rides together, go camping and skiing together.”
    The people one chooses to surround themselves with are an indication of personal character, and spending the bulk of one’s time with people committed to community service and safety creates a bond like no other, Poster said.
    “When something like 9-11 happens and 300 firefighters die, you cry,” he said. “It’s a connection like you don’t have in anything else.”
    The shared experience of making it through fire academy strengthens the bond, Poster said—it’s not for quitters.         The application process begins now, and those submitted prior to Wednesday, Dec. 3, are given priority, Frank said. Applicants who pass the vetting process are paid to complete a 184-hour Firefighter I Academy, which runs from January to May of next year. The class is intense, according to Mike Huntsman, instructor and lieutenant for the Wood River Fire and Rescue squad. It’s both deskwork and hands-on learning. Recruits will learn everything from multi-story ladder rescues to the science behind fire behavior. Academy graduates then become probationary firefighters, responding to all types of fire incidents and helping with emergency calls, Frank said.
    “Firefighter/EMTs are trained to extinguish fires, provide medical care, cut people out of cars, rescue people from the backcountry, deal with hazardous incidents and even save animals,” a news release from Frank states.
    Anyone interested in applying can pick up an application from any of the main stations of the Blaine County fire departments or the website volunteerfirefighter.org.




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