CHATHAM – Citizens will be able to get a close-up look at how the town's fire and rescue department operates at the first-ever Citizens Fire Academy.
The eight-week program begins in January. Participants will have a chance to see first hand the day-to-day operations of the department, enhance their knowledge of its capabilities and better understand the demands on the department and its staff.
“It's the first time we've really had a place do it,” Captain David DePasquale said of the new department headquarters on Depot Road, which opened earlier this year. The facility provides the space needed in order to run a fire academy for citizens – including classrooms and training areas – something the previous fire station lacked.
The goal, said DePasquale, is to give residents an opportunity to see the facility and how it runs, the equipment firefighters use, and learn the various types of services the department provides and the emergencies the staff responds to.
“It puts them through some of the practices we do,” he said, including what it's like to don heavy firefighting gear and breathing apparatus, “just to see what it's like.”
There will also be some hands on, practical training; participants will, for instances, get certified in CPR during the course of the academy, which runs from Jan. 19 to March 9, from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Among the topics that will be covered are the history of the department, personal protective equipment; fire apparatus and equipment; thermal imaging cameras, search and rescue and fire extinguishers; ambulance operations and equipment; CPR, first aid and basic medical treatment; tower ladder operations; special teams such as dive, water and technical rescue; and dispatch and communications.
DePasquale is heading up the program, and about half the members of the department have signed up to assist. He made clear that it is “not a recruiting class,” but is designed to educate residents on how the department operates.
Participants must be at least 21 years of age and have no criminal history; they must also be residents of Chatham, willing to commit to regular attendance and be able to pass a background check. There are no physical limitations, DePasquale added.
With the space now available at the new station, DePasquale said Chief Michael Ambriscoe was interested in running a citizens fire academy. He volunteered, and planned it so that the first class would graduate before the chief is scheduled to retire at the end of March. “He's been very supportive” of the effort, DePasquale said of the chief.
The program is limited to 12 participants. Applications for the first Citizens Fire Academy are now available at the Depot Road station. The submission deadline is Dec. 15.
“I'm looking forward to it,” DePasquale said. “I think it's going to be fun.”