IRONDALE, AL (WBRC) – It was one of the hardest tests of physical strength when I suited up in a firefighter’s bunker pants and turn out jacket weighing about 30 pounds at Shades Valley High School.
That’s only part of the training. Once firefighters add the air tanks we can tack on another 30 to 35 pounds.
Students are going through the training, setting them on the course to become firefighters at Shades Valley Fire Science Academy.
Students train under instructor and 18-year veteran Irondale firefighter David Brasher.
He takes them through strenuous physical training including pulling a truck tire nearly 200 pounds.
“That motivation that I give them when they grab that tire that right now it’s a tire but in the real world it could be a person. It could be your partner. Could be the guy you work with who goes down and you are responsible to get him out. It’s hard but in your mind that’s what you’ve got to do,” Brasher said.
“This has been like a dream of mine since I was a kid. I remember drawing pictures in kindergarten. Just wanting to be a firefighter, it’s kind of like an ambition of mine,” junior Michael Green said.
Principal Mary Beth Blankenship came up with the idea, saying she needed more teachers to give students options in career education.
Inspired by the fire station right across from Shades Valley High, she took her idea to Irondale’s mayor.
“We talk about college ready, career ready and life ready. This gives those students the opportunity to be ready. When these young men finish or graduate from the fire science program, probably within six months they can take the test and come out less than 20 years old and have a real job being a firefighter,” Blankenship said.
Mayor Tommy Joe Alexander said he had to convince his fire chief it would be a good investment. Chief Randy Davis was concerned about losing a veteran firefighter.
“All he saw was he was losing a man. He was losing a man, but I saw we are gaining people down the road, we’re gaining good citizens,” the mayor said.
Chief Davis watched students going through the class and said he saw several candidates he’d like to join the Irondale Fire Department.
Students going through the course and completing it at age 18 earn certification to become volunteer firefighters.
Chief Davis said they can take what they’ve learned, attend the Alabama Fire College for five weeks and become full firefighters and work at any department in the state.
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Sarah Verser, Reporting
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