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Routine training keeps firefighters ready

VIDALIA — Being a volunteer firefighter means more than just responding when needed; it also requires a bit of classroom study.

Volunteer firefighters, in addition to being willing to put their lives on the line, have to complete their fair share of training, not only to protect the public but themselves as well.

Concordia Fire District No. 2 firefighter Shanda Kugler has been a volunteer since August and a part-time firefighter since April. Fire district protocol requires that within a year of coming on board she has to get certification as a first responder and in hazardous material awareness and operations.

This is the third in a four-part series about area volunteer firefighters and their contributions to surrounding communities.

That means she has to do a lot of studying, and attend the classes the fire district has for training.

“The teacher from LSU comes and does a slide presentation where they pretty much teach us what is in the firefighter essentials manual and hazardous material operations,” she said.

In addition to the LSU classes, which are hosted two Thursdays a month, the fire district has regular training sessions on Monday nights.

“We try to train every Monday night, that way if we have someone come in new we can bring them up to speed very quick,” Concordia Fire District No. 2 Chief Nolen Cothren said. “A lot of times we get together and discuss what is going on, any training we need or anything we need to improve the department.”

And while the district’s training requirements are actually a little tougher than are legally required of them, Cothren said he doesn’t understand objections to the requirements.

“Those volunteers are going to be responding to that same fire as that professional firefighter,” he said.

While the firefighters do their share of book learning as part of the training, they also get hands-on training.

Kugler recently attended vehicle extrication training.

“Extrication training was so much fun,” she said. “We got to cut up an old rusty car, and the spreaders are huge and I didn’t think I was going to be able to do anything, but all you have to do is lift them and they do the rest.”

Monterey Fire Protection District No. 1 of Concordia Chief Jim Graves said the Monterey Fire Department volunteers train with Concordia Fire District No. 2 when they need it, and they also attend the LSU classes.

In Adams County, the volunteer fire departments train both in-house and with the state’s fire academy.

Every month, the departments meet for a little in-house training, Adams County Fire Coordinator Stan Owens said. Foster Mound Road Volunteer Fire Department meets the first Monday of every month, Owens said. The Lake Montrose Road, Liberty Road and Kingston Road volunteer fire departments meet whenever they can get the most people together.

“They do refresher type stuff,” Owens said. “A lot of it is maintenance — hose testing, pump operations and hose packing training.”

The Mississippi State Fire Academy —  a 12-hour certifiable course that also provides three hours toward EMT certification — comes down twice a year to lecture the firefighters and provide them with a chance for hands-on learning.

Owens said like anything else, you just have to stay on top of your game. Since it can be three months in between fires, it is important to attend the monthly meetings.

“If you don’t train at something consistently, you will definitely get rusty,” Owens said.

A rusty firefighter, Owens said, could put lives at risk, including the firefighters.

“This is a very hazardous duty that they serve — safety is always at the top of the list in training,” he said.

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