LOMPOC, Calif. - Santa Barbara County Fire Academy recruits performed a dramatic series of live drills at the Allan Hancock College Public Safety Complex in Lompoc on Tuesday morning.
For more than two hours, the recruits went through a class called "Fire Control 3," which allowed them to witness firsthand fire behavior in a fire training structure on the campus.
"Fire Control 3 is a two-day class where they're learning about fire behavior from an incipient stage, all the way through a flashover stage, and how to manage that fire, darken it down, get close to the seat of it and put it out," said Scott Safechuck, Santa Barbara County Fire Department public information officer. "It is a controlled environment to produce flashover conditions, to where that smoke and fire is becoming so intense that the smoke itself starts to ignite on fire and move across the heads and over the ceiling and over the recruits that are in this class, so they learn how to use door management, and isolating the fire to a certain room, and how to use the hose lines to darken it down, and to get in closer to the seat of the fire and put it out."
The Fire Academy currently has 14 recruits, which are firefighters who have been hired by department, but must complete a required rigorous training program in order to officially begin work with the department.
"These 14 people that are in the academy right now, they are considered recruits," said Safechuck. "Once hired, they go through an 18-week academy, and when the graduate, then they'll have a one-year probationary period, and then after that, they'll be a certified as a full-time firefighter."
The training program is typically held annually by Santa Barbara County Fire Department and is nearing its completion this year.
"They learn everything from rope rescues, to vehicle extrication, cutting people out of cars, to haz mat situation, and now fire, fire attack, so this really the end of their 18-weeks of training," said Santa Barbara County firefighter Lauren Bradley, who is serving as an instructor during the academy. "Santa Barbara County Fire, the academy here is very rigorous and very well-rounded, so when they hit the floor Monday morning, they can respond to anything. They are ready to respond to everything, so this academy truly prepares everyone for anything. Whatever the bells go for, that's what they're ready for."
Graduation for this year's class is set to for Sept. 29 in Santa Barbara. Once recruits walk through graduation ceremonies and are pinned with badges, they are immediately ready to start working for the department and respond to calls.
"On the 29th, it will be an exciting day for a lot of these recruits, as well as our department and the family members of these recruits because they've been away from their families for 18 weeks putting in hard labor, coming home exhausted, and their job is on the line every day," said Safechuck. "They need to earn this position. This isn't something that's just given to them. They have to prove their value here because what we do can make or break someone living or not, so it's really important that we have the best candidates here."
In addition to speaking about the Fire Academy on Tuesday, Safechuck also wanted to pass along an important safety message to the public.
"The best thing the public can do in their house is have a working smoke detector in each one of their rooms," said Safechuck. "They want to check that smoke detector at least once a week, but really importantly also, change the batteries every six months when we do the time change, and that's probably the most important thing they can do to help themselves in the advent of a fire in their house is the early notification."