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Prospective firefighters train in Billings

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Posted at 11:28 PM, May 23, 2023

BILLINGS — The Montana Firefighter Testing Consortium held its biggest event of the year, drawing in hundreds of potential firefighters.

Over 100 people gathered at MetraPark on Tuesday to test if they have what it takes to become a Montana firefighter.

Recruits test in eight events, starting with three minutes on the stair stepper with 70 extra pounds of weight, and other events like a dark obstacle course, and some that involved fire hoses, ladders, and hammers, where they had 10 minutes and 20 seconds to finish.

"I’m ready for it. I’m ready to just go get it over with it. It’s kind of fun, too. You get to play with all the hoses, and the ropes and ladders and stuff. You get to go in the dark in the tunnel. It’s pretty fun. Definitely so tired at the end though. Oh my gosh, it’s exhausting. You got to be really mentally focused to get through the whole thing, and if you’re not, you’re going to be toasted," said prospective firefighter Kyle Boss on Tuesday.

While it’s fun for some, the fire departments are happy to see such a big turnout.

"Our class right now, we have about a third of them that came from out of state. But we also have three women in that recruitment too. So, when you’re talking about diversity it helps when you have a bigger pool to pull from," said Chelsea Thompson, assistant training chief for the Billings Fire Department.

And recruiting women in particular has been a challenge in the past as only around 6,200 women are employed full-time by fire departments around the country. But that's starting to change.

"We’ve seen more women come out in the last four or five years. But I also think departments have been really good at portraying the women in their departments and how it’s a career option," said Thompson.

"We all love it the same just we have differences in strength and stuff but being able to participate and be a part of the team. That’s awesome," said Becca Dorsey, a prospective firefighter.

Dorsey is a volunteer firefighter in Helena and said the support she sees at events like the one Tuesday just reinforces her desire to follow her dreams.

"I love helping the community. Every day you get to wake up and you have a task and you’re bettering a situation, trying to make someone day’s better. Every day is different. You never know what you’re going to get called for and I love the change and you have to be prepared for everything," said Dorsey.