GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Coast firefighting recruits are now one step closer to saving lives and protecting the community. More than a dozen rookies from multiple departments went through intense fire training in Gulfport on Wednesday.
Up until now in their six-week course, these recruits have been through multiple training scenarios, but none have involved real flames and smoke. This is where that changed.
The Combat Readiness Training Center offers its state of the art facility for exercises like this one that ready firefighters for the real world.
"And so it begins, to inoculate them into the world of the fire service," said CRTC Assistant Fire Chief Rusty Shoultz.
"Anytime you can train in kind of a real life scenario, then the better you'll be when it actually happens," said recruit Mikael Ingram.
Shoultz sent the recruits through several cycles of training. The different phases ready the men for extinguishing flames in high heat scenarios and saving occupants from the blaze.
Jeff Merrill, Deputy Chief of Operations at the Biloxi Fire Department, remembers how important this training was for him. He says it can be a bit unnerving.
"When you first do this, it's different. It's unnatural for you to go into a burning building," said Merrill.
These feelings of hesitation were what he and the other fire officials on hand hoped to get these trainees used to.
"This is where we can make our mistakes, so that when we come out into the community, we can actually make things work and make them work the right way," said Wesley Gillespie, a return firefighter to the Biloxi Fire Department.
The experience was intense, and many of these recruits agree that being hands-on will help them in the long run.
"It's valuable tools. It's valuable training. It's valuable lessons that all can go through," said Gillespie.
The recruits all agreed on one thing.
"It was hot. It was like an oven," said Ingram.
The heat left them ready to face whatever challenge lies ahead of them as a first responder.
These recruits were from fire departments in Long Beach, Biloxi and D'Iberville. Their next step is to head to the State Fire Academy in Jackson for more training.