Career and volunteer fire fighters answer call of duty

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Obviously, fire safety and prevention are major parts of a fire fighter's job.  However, that's far from their only responsibility.

Learning how to respond to any emergency is challenge that not everyone can face.

"It's pretty rigorous in the fact that, it's almost military style boot camp now," said Long Beach Career Fire Fighter Michael Shade of training.

Each career fire fighter within the city departments go through six weeks of classes and field experience to gain certification.

"They do everything from fire fighter safety, to communication, hose streams, nozzles, ladders, ropes," said Long Beach Fire Chief George Bass.

Trainees, who can be as young as 18, also learn emergency medical training and extrication skills.

"It's a lot of information that's crammed into six weeks time, but once we get these guys back, they know how to use the equipment and they're able to fight fires with us then," said Bass.

Volunteers have the same training, but it's spread over a year or more as they learn around their civilian lives.

"It takes time away from their family. Sometimes, it takes time away from their jobs to get the training they need," said Harrison County Fires Services Training Coordinator Ronald Davis.

He says finding time to train is often the biggest challenge volunteers face.  However, the county fire services has plans to expand their coverage and operations.

"Basically, when all is said and done there will be no difference in training between career and volunteer fire fighters in Harrison County," said Davis. Their tools of the trade range from the jaws of life used to pull people from crushed cars, to the safety equipment worn to protect against 700 degrees of heat and fire, and the fire engine that is much more than transportation.

Training is essential, but experience is invaluable.

"You might have that 18 year old dealing with this, or being in a bad structure fire that's dealing with this, and this 18 year old is no different than our service men and women who are off overseas," said Bass.

"You're up there, it gets up to 700, 800 degrees. You trying to make interior attacks with your team, learning teamwork, learning to work with them together in a situation like that," said Shade.

"You never know what's going to happen or what you're pulling up to or what you're going to run into," said volunteer fire fighter TJay Pratt.

For all the training, tools, and demands, fire fighters say it's a job like no other.

"Once you step through the door the first time and you see what it's all about. It has a grip on you," said Bass.

"It's a very rewarding career," said Shade.

"Helping out the community. That's what we're all here for," agreed Pratt.

Fire fighters say they are always looking for more people to joining their ranks.  Career fire fighters go through three rounds of tests and interviews before they can proceed to the fire academy.

If you are interested, contact your city or county fire service department.

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