Lenawee County scores new graduates with Firefighter I and II certification
When Cindy Faust of Britton started working with the Ridgeway Fire Department as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) she knew she would eventually have to decide whether to get her firefighter certification. In October, Faust began the process along with volunteer firefighters throughout Lenawee County. Jeff Armstrong of the Cambridge Township Fire Department works every year with the certification classes. The 27 people who graduated this year constituted an average class size for the yearly program, which runs from October to May.
“This is run by Lenawee County Fire Chiefs Training Division,” Armstrong said.
Students come into the program through their local fire departments. “To be part of the class they have to be part of an organized fire department,” said Armstrong. “Not just anybody can get in.”
Training includes time in the classroom and practice in field settings. Candidates need to be able to climb ladders, lift and wind hoses, as well as other physical work.
Some HazMat training is also part of the program as well as drivers training. The course includes 220-240 hours of work and finishes up with testing, both on paper and in the field.
“There is a test by the state on all these subjects,” Armstrong said. The written test includes 200 questions, and a practical day is administered by the state.
Practical testing is done at Michigan International Speedway, which allows plenty of space to set up the 12 different testing stations. Once the trainees pass the practical testing, they are officially certified Firefighter I and II.
“This is all run through the state,” said Armstrong. “They set up all the criteria and curriculum we use.”
The requirements for volunteer firefighters vary somewhat depending on the department.
“Most fire departments do require them to be 18 or out of school,” Armstrong said.
Although certification is not required to be a volunteer firefighter, it does limit what work a volunteer can do in the department. “We can’t subject them to live fire until they have been trained,” said Armstrong, who explained most departments require I and II certification before a volunteer can enter a burning building.
The goal for the state is to have well-trained firefighters, not to try and make the process difficult, according to Armstrong. “There are no surprises,” Armstrong said. “Everybody gets through it for the most part if they try. It’s the same program throughout the state.”
The advantage in Michigan for those going through the certification is they only have to go through the program one time and are certified for the whole state.
Cadets and explorers often receive approval to go through the program, even though as high school students they are too young to serve in a fire department. Lenawee County had one high school junior successfully go through the program. “Once he graduates from high school, he’ll have all his training completed,” said Armstrong.
Faust is part of the minority in the class, as only one or two women go through the class each year. Other recipients of the Firefighter I and II classification include Deven Dusseau and Mike Ford from Clinton; Jeremy Sharp, Shannon Coleman, and Jeff Winzeler from Raisin Township; Sandy Gooding, Tyler Mutter, and Brendyn Paules from Cambridge Township.
Armstrong appreciates all the hard work his students go through each year. “It’s nice to see them get through it and the challenges they go through,” he said.
Faust appreciates all the different training she received through the program, and believes she is well prepared to serve the Ridgeway Township Fire Department.