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Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department tests potential firefighters

Applicants must pass physical, classroom tests

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The Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department is adding much-needed personnel to its ranks.

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Firefighter candidates go through Day 2 of ladder training during their fifth week of basic fire training. Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department candidates also must complete EMS training. About 35 have been offered jobs if they make it through training.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Firefighter candidates go through Day 2 of ladder training during their fifth week of basic fire training. Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department candidates also must complete EMS training. About 35 have been offered jobs if they make it through training.

More than 30 new firefighters have been in the application and training process since July. The process started with 700 hopefuls for the agency that has about 300 employees.

The department has about 40 slots to fill, according to Harmon Brown, the lieutenant of training.

“We have a lot of vacancies,” Fire Chief Chris James said. “Over the past administration, there were retirements and other reasons for people leaving. To reduce overtime, we need to fill them.”

The department advertised the openings and began taking applications in July. A written test reduced the applicants to about 350.

Those candidates were invited to participate in a voluntary three-month physical training course, during which they could prepare for the Candidate Physical Ability Test. This was the first class that implemented the CPAT as part of the application process in Augusta.

The CPAT simulates what a firefighter has to be able to do on the job.

The test requires candidates to step for three minutes on a StairMaster at 60 steps per minute wearing a 50-pound weighted vest and two 25-pound shoulder weights.

Then, they perform seven other physical tests, including a hose drag, ladder raise and equip­ment carry. The course must be completed in less than 10 minutes, 20 seconds. If they pass the test during a timed practice session, that counts. Otherwise, during the actual test, they have only one chance to pass, Brown said.

“It makes for more physically fit individuals,” Brown said. “This way, we don’t have to worry about the candidate’s physical condition.”

Only about 70 of the 350 passed the CPAT.

Next was the acrophobia test, in which the prospective firefighters are tested on their ability to deal with heights. The candidates climb a 100-foot ladder at a 75 degree angle and lock in with a safety belt at the top. At the top, they lean back and have to clap above their head “three distinctive times,” Brown said. They have to unhook and climb down. All of that has to be finished in less than five minutes. No one failed the acrophobia test.

The physical tests are followed by oral interviews. Each potential firefighter sits down with a panel of interviewers. Brown said candidates were given points added to the ones they received on their written test. At the completion of the oral interviews, candidates are ranked based on the points they received throughout the process.

The top candidates were asked back and had to pass a background check and a tobacco test.

This was the first year potential firefighters had to be tobacco free, Capt. Mel LaPan said.

“It’s good,” he said. “But we lost several (candidates) to that.”

About 35 were offered positions with the condition that they complete the 25-week training course that started in January.

The first week of training was an orientation. For the rest of the training, the prospective firefighters were split into two groups. Half were sent to fire training, and half to EMS training.

Both trainings include written multiple-choice exams that require 75 percent correct answers to pass. The firefighters get one makeup if they fail a test. If they fail it twice, they are out of a job, said one of the new firefighters, 24-year-old Daniel Beerman.

“We have really good teachers,” he said. “They give us every tool we need. Our jobs are in our hands at this point.”

Three have failed out of EMS training but none has failed out of fire training.

“I have wanted to do this my whole life,” Beerman said. “When I was little, all my toys were fire trucks. It’s a career and a calling.”

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jackiestevens
0
Points
jackiestevens 02/22/12 - 09:14 pm
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All these requirements for

All these requirements for about $30,000 a year, NICE. I'm a Firefighter/EMT with 16 years on the job, take my advice, you will need the cigarettes when your bills come due.

kmb413
533
Points
kmb413 02/23/12 - 11:06 am
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0
Not even 30k a year when you

Not even 30k a year when you start.

vickidu52
15
Points
vickidu52 02/23/12 - 12:19 pm
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Take advice from a

Take advice from a firefighter family member. He has 39 years on. His salary has dropped over the past due to furloughs. He makes under $50 a year AFTER 39 YEARS OF SERVICE! He's saved two lives and has firefighter of the year for this. He's not allowed to go further than Sgt. rank because he doesn't have college yet he has to do this job often, the FULL job, which he can do easily but resents because there is not one bit of compensation. So you get a second job to pay your bills but any time they want, they call you into a class that's every day of the week, not the days of your shift, so your second job lets you go. True that you will never have a camaraderie that you will get coming on and living those 24 hour shifts with fellow firefighters, but you've lost a lot of hours with family, you've risked your life, you couldn't make your monthly bills and can't afford any extras. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!? Oh, and now a college degree is getting to be a norm if you move up- so go on, get those college loans that you can't afford once you get on for a "chance" at making the promotion for a job that will be way lower than those in the ads that require college. Oh, by the way, that crack junkie you pulled out of the fire had to share your mask while you carried them out.....that makes you feel really good the next years of your life too! Think hard and long.......

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