BILLINGS – Eleven fresh faces hope to join the ranks of Billings Firefighters, completing the first week of the Billings Fire Department Recruit Academy.
Funded in part by the Public Safety Mill Levy that Billings voters passed in 2021, the 11 new recruits will learn all aspects of being a firefighter over the next 14-weeks.
they get through the academy, they’ll be on probation for another three months and respond to calls before they earn the title of firefighter.
The academy usually spans over 12 weeks, but due to the class size and holidays, two more weeks were added to thoroughly train each recruit.
Their schedule during the academy consists of four, 10-hour days.
A typical day begins with physical fitness followed by Turnout and SCBA drills, so the recruits can get familiar with their gear.
Depending on the day’s schedule, they’ll spend time in the classroom, or do hands-on activities to learn the different tasks of a firefighter.
Friday was their first day of hands-on training and the focus was on air supply.
Each recruit was fitted with a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, known to firefighters as SCBA.
The SCBA provides firefighters with air and protects them from gases, dust, vapors, and carcinogens when they’re in a dangerous environment like a house fire.
Their breathing was put to the test with an air consumption drill.
All suited up in their turnout gear, the recruits went through a series of stations to find out how long their air supply lasts with constant movement and activities with various physical demands.
From moving a fire hose to tossing a football, dragging a 165-pound dummy, moving an I-Beam on the Keiser Sled with a sledgehammer, and climbing a ladder, it took recruits anywhere from 13 minutes and 29 seconds, up to 18 minutes and 30 seconds to use all the air in their cylinder.
They were also introduced to the RIT-Pak, which stands for Rapid Intervention Team. The emergency air supply system is used to provide air to a downed firefighter, or a person trapped in a fire.
In a situation where a firefighter runs out of air while in a dangerous environment, they can also connect to a fellow firefighter’s SCBA through buddy breathing.
But before SCBA training began on Friday, the recruits went through their first physical fitness test.
Using the Army's basic training standards, the recruits had to do push-ups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run.
Thursday was spent in the classroom learning about health and wellness, which ranged from cancer reduction, nutrition, injury prevention, mental health issues, sleep deprivation and resiliency.
The chemicals firefighters encounter are linked to cancer, which is also the leading cause of firefighter deaths.
National statistics show one in three firefighters will be diagnosed with cancer.
Even after the firefighters leave the scene of a fire, exposure still lingers as their bodies off-gases toxins.
Thursday’s lesson also stressed the importance of hygiene and on-scene decontamination. Without it, soot can easily transfer throughout the fire station, and even make its way to their families at home.
The Billings Fire Department's goal is to train and equip firefighters physically and mentally for a long healthy career, so with 13 more weeks to go, these recruits face many more drills, lessons, and experiences before they’re ready to serve the people of Billings.