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Daisy Mountain Fire Department facilitates citizen fire academy


Tara Alatorre

NEW RIVER – Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a firefighter?  Well approximately 12 citizens are getting the full experience of what it is like to fill a first responder's shoes  while attending this year’s annual citizen fire academy put on by the Daisy Mountain Fire Department.

The academy is an 8 week-course and it started on January 4; attendees have been participating every Thursday at DMFD’s station 141.  Over the course of eight weeks participants get to use real turnout gear used by firefighters while using specialized equipment for simulation drills getting a hands-on experience of what it's like to be a firefighter.
So far academy attendees have operated functioning fire hoses, trained in CPR courses, and have taken classes on how to properly ventilate a burning home while minimizing damages to a victim’s possessions.  The Foothills Focus, went out to the fire station on February 8, to observe the academy participants train on vehicle extraction methods, and demonstrate ladder drills on the fire truck while in full gear.
While most participants that attend are doing so to merely quell their curiosity, a few people decided to attend this year’s academy as a way to dip their toe into the water and help them decide if they want to pursue a career in fire and rescue.
Like Carol Smith, who lives in Mesa, but found out about the academy through Facebook.  She enrolled because she has been on the fence about pursuing a career as a firefighter. 
“This solidifies it, fire is what I want to be doing!” Smith said, while grinning after coming down from a ladder truck drill that took her over 45 feet in the air in full gear.
Next, Paul Schickel, the Community Services Program Director for DMFD, moves the academy participants over to an older model vehicle with a plethora of heavy duty tools that sit next to it on a tarp. Each person gets a turn out using a tool to break the car windows, from a giant axe to a serrated hand saw. Many confidently swing expecting the glass to break on the first try, then quickly become surprised by how much effort they must put into shattering a window.
As one of the participants swings a big metal axe repeatedly at a passenger window, the firefighters are on the sidelines gently reminding him that in real life, a person is in the car whose life is depending on you.  The firefighters use the moment as a teaching point in why tool selection is key to minimizing the risk of injuries, and keeping someone calm when extracting a person from a wrecked vehicle.
After each person has had a turn at attempting vehicle extraction methods with the different equipment available, the trained firefighters demonstrate to the participants how it would look in real life at the scene of an accident. Sparks fly, and within seconds firefighters have pried open the side panel of the passenger door with the jaws of life and the drilled through the front windshield.
It is adrenaline-inducing  moments like these that motivate residents to join the citizen fire academy.  This is Jeff Tendick’s second time participating in the academy, his first-time attending was two years ago.  He says because the crew is so warm and welcoming he decided to enroll again this year. 
"The crew is great and the guys are great," He said.  "The classes go so in-depth, you just really get a better understanding for what they are going through out there on the scene."
He compares the fire academy to secret menus at popular restaurants, something anyone can access, but maintains a sense of exclusivity.
“If people knew what we did for the last eight weeks they would want to do it too,” Tendick said.  “It’s amazing it’s such a rush.”
If you would like to know more about the citizen academy or DMFD please email