BILLINGS — The Billings Fire Department is currently in week five of its 14-week training program for recruits.
The class consists of 12 recruits, 11 from Billings and one from Lockwood, and they have been learning all about what it takes to be a firefighter.
Chelsea Thompson is the assistant training chief at the Billings Fire Department and knows firsthand what it is like to be a new recruit. Thompson was the first female recruit Billings has ever seen—19 years ago. Now, she is helping teach others.
“Some of them are very skilled. They’ve been in the fire service for a while, and some are brand new to the fire service," Thompson explains. "We have both ends of the spectrum, so we really start from the basics, give them all of the knowledge we can, and we develop from there.”
MTN was invited to watch a controlled burn in town that would help the new recruits learn more about what's happening in real structure fires on a smaller scale.
The recruits worked alongside their experienced teachers with thermal-imaging tools to help get a look at what was happening inside of the house.
Different doors and vents were opened and closed to demonstrate how ventilation can change the pattern of the fire or smoke. Essentially any way that oxygen is added to or taken away from a fire can make a large impact.
The training chief quizzed the recruits on their classroom knowledge but also provided them with new information, with the aid of a miniature house.
“This is one of the coolest things we’ve done in the past probably 5-6 years," Thompson says. She explains that new technology has been key in these improvements to the program.
Next, Thompson says they will be learning about hose handling and nozzle patterns.
A majority of this training is being paid for by the public safety levy passed by Billings voters last November. Thompson says that she is very grateful for the approval of voters, and the levy is allowing them to have a large class size.
"They have a fully-loaded, packed agenda and it’s a tight fit in 14 weeks," Thompson says. Due to their busy schedule, MTN wasn't able to speak with any recruits directly.
At the end of September, the Montana state consortium will be happening here in Billings to find the next recruiting class. For more information, please click here.
“Training is going really well. They’re all very very eager to learn," Thompson says. "It's a pretty exciting time for Billings Fire Department."