Fourth firefighter recruit school underway at Thorsby

Published 7:46 pm Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Firefighter recruit school is not for the faint of heart. It doesn’t take long to learn that while observing drills at the Thorsby fire training facility.

Thirteen young men, including six from Chilton County fire departments, are training to be career firefighters at Thorsby. They are part of the fourth class held at the facility, which is one of only eight such facilities statewide.

Thorsby Fire Chief Lee Gunn said nearly 70 firefighters have gone through the department to build their careers.

“I really think it’s been one of the most positive things we have done to get these kids in the position to get jobs,” Gunn said.

The 13 subject areas of training focus on ladders, rescue, hose operations, hazardous materials operations and more.

Prerequisites for the 400-hour recruit school include either a high school diploma or GED, passage of the Cadet Physical Agility Test (CPAT), physical examination and either EMT basic or first responder training.

Those who graduate earn Firefighter I and II certification. The goal is for the class to be offered once a year.

“We’ve had a lot more success with people signing up for the class this year,” Gunn said.

The school saves the department money because firefighters can train on site rather than travel to the State Fire College in Tuscaloosa.

Gunn said it costs about $3,000 out of pocket for one person to attend fire college.

Sixteen of the 18 firefighters at Thorsby are career certified. Gunn said that’s unheard of at a volunteer fire department.

“When you’re going into a fire, the fire doesn’t know whether the guys are paid or not paid…and they’re all expected to do the same thing,” he said.

Thorsby’s training facility also generates money for the town because it is used by other departments as well.

Gunn said the school would not be possible without the support of town leaders.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have great mayors and city councils to support the fire department,” he said.

Several graduates of the recruit school who are now full-time firefighters return as instructors on their days off. One day of training is a full eight hours, and six crews take turns preparing meals every day for the entire group.

“I really have to commend those guys,” Gunn said. “They’re working hard to keep this city protected and keep these guys trained.”

Clanton Fire Chief David Driver and Lt. Jeff Dansby are both graduates of the Thorsby recruit school. Driver is a full-time chief at Clanton, and Dansby works full-time for Homewood Fire Department.

“Neither one of us would have the jobs we have now had it not been for this class,” Driver said.