Class teaches basics of fighting fires for prospective firefighters

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Being a volunteer firefighter is more than contacting someone, and being a firefighter can mean confronting dangerous scenarios. So before sticking your life on the line, you and every other prospective firefighter will need to pass a class. 

The Firefighter One course, which has been around since 1923, provides those new to the profession with a baseline firefighting course mandatory for everyone new to the job, with the class broken into two parts: classroom and practice.

“The classroom part goes over the policies and procedures of the fire service,” Fire Chief of the Northwood Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co. Blake Severson said. “Then they go into some critical-thinking table talk exercises.”

Severson described the first portion of the class as basic, with instructors going over the history of the service. The class then covers the reasoning for fire hydrants and improved fire-suppression systems, as well as the evolution of the fire department.

“As that goes on, you take little bits and pieces and start to train on them, so it is broken up into chapters,” he said. “One chapter, for example, will be building construction. 

“You’ll break down different types of building construction and whether it is A-frame homes or brick buildings or what have you, and you’ll learn how those buildings are built, how they burn and the risks with those buildings.” 

After the classroom portion, students head out into the field to apply the skills they learned using firefighting tools by going to North Iowa Area Community College and using their fire-simulation building.

“They get to feel the heat, they get to fight fires and smoke, and it’s all in a controlled, safe environment,” he said. “This is really where they get to get comfortable in their firefighting gear and really understand the backbone of firefighting.”

The upcoming class will start Monday with meetings from 5 to 10 p.m. every Monday and Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon every other Saturday. The final class will meet April 15. The last time the class was offered in Northwood was five years ago.  

Severson said 15 prospective volunteer firefighters were signed up, but not just anyone can sign up.

“Typically you have to be involved with a fire department …” he said. “Otherwise the basic prerequisites are you have to be at least 18 years old, covered under insurance and be an Iowa resident.”

For anyone interested in becoming a firefighter, Severson recommends visiting your city hall or local fire department and talking with someone. 

“Kind of nationwide, volunteers are in an extreme shortage right now,” he said. “No matter where you’re at, volunteers are needed.”

Anyone involved in a fire department or a volunteer fire department is encouraged to enroll, and in Iowa the state pays for the course.

And while the Northwood volunteer department is doing well, a lot of local volunteer fire departments are struggling with staffing and help is always appreciated. So if you’re considering a career as a firefighter, give Steverson a call about the Firefighter One course. You can reach Northwood through either its Facebook page or by contacting him directly at 641-390-1663. Currently, there are 26 members in the Northwood Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co., 15 of them additionally certified as emergency medical responders. 

Last year, Northwood responded to 399 calls for service.