Public Safety

A Fire Wall of Determination and Skills

Giant flames were extinguished and crushed vehicles were opened by 24 volunteer firefighters at the Heartland Fire Training Facility Saturday. The firefighters demonstrated their new skills for family and friends at the graduation from a new state-certified training program sponsored by the San Diego County Fire Authority.

 

The volunteer firefighters graduated from Firefighter 1 training in the first academy sponsored by the Fire Authority. The training standards have been raised to ensure the volunteers meet the same training requirements as paid firefighters. The new training mandates will require a higher level of service from volunteers and will improve worker safety and performance while reducing liability, said Herman Reddick, program manager for the San Diego County Fire Authority.

“Today, we honor you 24 firefighters who are now ready to take on the challenges ahead,” said Reddick on Saturday. “More than 600 hours of hard work in the classroom and in the field went toward learning how to respond to emergencies.”  

Volunteer firefighter and new academy graduate Anthony Rossetti, 28, said his goal is to be a career firefighter in the next few years. Currently, he works in construction to support his wife and daughter, but he has been volunteering at the Warner Springs and Sunshine Summit fire stations for seven months. He was thrilled to be selected for this training that has improved his skills and will allow him to receive a certificate from the state that will make him more marketable to career fire departments. 

“It was definitely a big commitment, a lot of sacrifice,” Rossetti said of the 4-month-long academy but he believes it is worth it. “My grandfather is retired from FDNY (Fire Department New York). It’s probably one of the greatest jobs a guy can have.”

The Fire Authority will also sponsor a driver-operator course at Miramar College for the graduates. They then must demonstrate various skills in the field before they can send away for their state Firefighter 1 certificate.

Reddick said volunteer firefighters sign a contract to work 60 24-hour shifts to repay the Fire Authority for the training courses. At the end of that time, the volunteers can apply to a career fire department for a paid position.  

Previously, the Fire Authority offered training with local certificates, which were not recognized by all fire departments. This new training program provides a career path that offers both education and experience. Miramar Community College, Heartland Fire Training Authority, San Diego County Fire Authority, CAL FIRE and others are working together to provide seamless training that is state-certified for everyone interested in the fire service said Reddick.

“It’s important to have volunteers trained at the same level,” Reddick said. “Overall, training is a priority for the Fire Authority in order for us to put the most highly qualified volunteers on the job.”

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Rossetti, who lives in Temecula, said during the academy, the volunteer firefighters went to the classroom and then practiced skills including car rescues and extrications, low angle rope rescues, hazmat scene management, and confined space awareness.

Overall, he was very impressed with Heartland Fire Academy and its instructors. Rossetti’s next goal after repaying the County with the 60 shifts is to go to paramedic school, which many career fire departments prefer in job candidates.

People who are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter will need to take introductory training courses at Miramar College before they are assigned to a fire station. The new volunteers must then work for at least a year, taking a minimum of three 24-hour shifts a month at one of 24 assigned fire stations, before the Fire Authority will sponsor them in a future academy.

“You are our first graduating class that will pave the way for those that will follow,” Reddick told firefighters at the ceremony. “Thank you for the vital contributions you continue to make to the citizens of San Diego County.”

The Fire Authority, created in 2008, provides support to unify the administration, communications, information technology and training to rural fire agencies and to extend “around the clock” protection to 1.5 million acres of the unincorporated county.

Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact