HomeCity NewsGlendale Recruits Bear the Heat in Fire Training

Glendale Recruits Bear the Heat in Fire Training

Glendale Fire Department recruits are more than halfway through their 16-week training academy, where their stamina, agility and mental capacity are put to the test.
Throughout training, recruits learn the ins and outs of basic firefighting, emergency medical services, forcible entry, vehicle extrication, the science behind fire and how it behaves, how to properly use equipment and more, said Shane Baker, who leads GFD’s recruitment division. Bringing in experts within the department for various lessons, the academy provides its trainees with the best possible mentors, or “cadres,” for each specialized topic.
Baker stressed the importance of in-depth and thorough training provided to recruits to properly prepare them for what it’s like in the field.
“This training is hard physically, mentally and emotionally,” Baker told the News-Press. “But when it comes down to it, people call us because they need help and we’re there to problem solve, so we need to be ready for everything and anything.”
Training spans Monday through Thursday from 5:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., though recruit Matthew Fischer says the work is never really done. Once he gets home for the day, Fischer reviews his course material and focuses on regaining his strength from the long day’s work.
A culmination of physical workouts, training drills, classroom style lectures, quizzes and tests, and equipment practice, training combines visual, auditory and traditional learning.
“There’s a really big learning curve. Every single day, every single hour, I’m learning something new, which I appreciate,” Fischer told the News-Press. “The environment is very go, go, go. You have to be on your toes in order to succeed in this training academy.”
Describing training as “grueling,” “intense,” “demanding” and “hands on,” Fischer said that the academy holds recruits to a high standard of excellence, however, he emphasized that academy instructors give trainees lots of personalized help to ensure they meet these standards.
Baker explained that instructors conduct individual evaluations at the end of every week to discuss what each recruit did well, what they could improve upon and allow the recruit to raise any concerns or get clarification on the week’s lessons.
This one-on-one care allows Fischer to feel like more than just a number, but rather a part of the GFD family, he said.
“The members of the department really focus on helping you succeed, even with the small things,” Fischer said. “You feel really valued and supported.”
In addition to forging close relationships with his mentors, Fischer has found close community with his fellow trainees, who he says are in constant communication with each other, whether that’s bouncing questions around or providing support and uplifting one another.
With a tightknit group of six recruits, Baker noted that enrollment in Glendale’s academy has been on the decline over the years, on par with departments across the nation. Recalling that about 4,500 academy applications were submitted when he first joined GFD 12 years ago, Baker said that number has been decreasing and was at 2,530 this past application cycle.
Because of the department’s Emergency Medical Services model, meaning firefighters are also trained as Emergency Medical Technicians, GFD primarily looks for paramedics to join the academy, which limits the hiring pool.
“It is a national crisis where there’s not as many paramedics and it seems to be just the culture changing,” Baker said. “I think a lot of people don’t want to be in the fire service because of the steps it takes to get hired.”
Applying to the academy is a three-to-six-month process, encompassing an English, math and mechanical aptitude test, a panel interview and an extensive background check.
Of the 165 firefighters within GFD, there are only two women; however, Baker noted there are many female EMTs and ambulance operators. While Baker emphasized that the department wants to hire everyone interested and capable of doing the work, in his experience he has found that fewer women are interested in joining the fire department and tend to prefer working on the medical side of emergency services.
Baker defines a good firefighter as someone who is resilient and adaptive and has a positive attitude, strong work ethic, good morals and a team player mentality.
His advice to anyone considering a career as a firefighter is to jump into the process and let go of fear.
“You can always ask, ‘what if, what if, what if,’ but you’re never going to know unless you actually do it,” Baker said. “I think that a lot of people, myself included early on in this career, are worried about failure. I didn’t want to try something new and fail at it, but in this job, that’s how we learn.”
Current recruits are projected to complete the academy at the end of May and will then embark on their one-year probationary period with the department where they will put the skills and knowledge they gained from training to the test.
“All these skills are going to be helping us succeed when we go into that probationary year,” Fischer said. “It’s really important for us to rise to that next level and get out into the field when we’re going to act as firefighter paramedics.”

Fire academy instructors walk recruits through lessons before giving them the opportunity to practice their life-saving skills.

First published in the April 20 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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