What It Takes: Firefighters

Dothan, AL - As kids we’re taught this black and white car gets the bad guys. This square truck helps you when you’re sick. And the big red truck… it puts out the fire. But these days, firefighters are expected to do much more.

“They’ll call us for anything from an EMS, hazmat, and technical rescue. There’s a lot more to training now than just pulling a nose line,” said Battalion Chief Shan Ash, Dothan Fire Department.

In Dothan, that training starts as soon as they can pass a written test along with a grueling physical test. Next stop, the fire college.

“It was tough. It was a tough 16 weeks. EMT basic and firefighter 1 and 2. I learned a lot. Now I’m here with the city of Dothan and I’m ready to learn a lot more,” said Firefighter Michael Knowles, Dothan Fire Department.

And they will. These rookies just graduated and are now getting extra training using Dothan’s tools.

To get the full experience, I suited up to learn the basics. Even that was difficult.

“You’ve got to be able to mentally push through those challenges that feel like a physical challenge but you’ve got to go beyond what you feel you can do,” said Ash.

On a daily basis 80 percent of their calls are medical related. That makes the fire training they do even more crucial to their jobs.

Ash said, “Fires do not make up as much, but that’s even more reason for us to train more. We’re not as exposed as we were. We’ve got to be prepared when we get it. Building construction changes. There’s so many changes in modern construction that our training has to go right along with that.”

If they aren’t training, Ash says they are going to get behind.

“Our philosophy is if we’re not on the call, we should be preparing for it. If we’re not doing that constantly we will be behind. Your firefighters today are definitely challenged in all the things we have to go to. They have to want it to be here.”

Knowles can’t wait.

“We’re excited to serve the public. This is exactly what we want to do every day.”

The protocols change annually. Currently, they are required to do 20 hours of additional fire training each month and 72 hours of EMS training every two years.

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