Fire department’s fresh faces are put through their paces
BY MIKE NOLAN firstname.lastname@example.org May 30, 2014 11:24PM
Orland firefighter candidates Jason Postma, far right, and Martin Majda, center work with Orland firefighter Bob Stoltz at a simulated fire Friday morning at the OFPD Training Center in Orland Park. Photo for Sun-Times Media by Jean Lachat
Updated: July 2, 2014 6:28AM
Three weeks into their training to become firefighters with the Orland Fire Protection District, Jason Postma and Marty Majda talk as though they are promising rookies on a perennially playoff-bound sports team.
While they’ve both had experience as firefighters elsewhere, coming to Orland represents a big step up, they said.
“It’s the premier department,” Postma said. “We want to be part of something great.”
Majda said that getting hired in Orland is “something you strive for.”
For the next year, all they will be are probationary firefighters, part of a group of 10 recently brought on to fill vacancies caused by retirements in the district, according to Chief Ken Brucki.
Although each has worked as a firefighter and all also are trained as paramedics — both requirements to be considered for the district — it’s almost as if they’re starting from scratch in Orland’s nine-week training academy.
“We break ’em down and teach them the way we want to teach them,” Brucki said. “Our level of expectation is that much higher.”
Through the training, the candidates — identified by their red T-shirts — understand that “we will set you up for success” but that they have to take the initiative to achieve it, he said.
Along the way, the firefighter candidates will be evaluated for their proficiency at various skills. On Friday, the 10 were put through their paces, donning full gear and oxygen tanks and conducting search-and-rescue operations in a simulated fire.
They’ll also get training in making rescues from confined spaces, vehicle crash extrication procedures and emergency medical treatment.
All department vehicles, including fire trucks and engines, are outfitted with advanced life-support gear.
The EMS training the firefighter candidates will undergo will “refine their skills to bring them up to the training level we want,” Lt. Dave Piper, the district’s training safety officer, said.
A typical day for the candidates starts at 7 a.m. with a one-hour fitness training session, and the regimen has been extended to all of the department’s firefighters. It’s designed to combat the muscle aches and on-the-job injuries that can come from lifting heavy objects, including gear or fire and car crash victims, often in an awkward position, Brucki said.
Brucki said the department has seen a “significant reduction” in injuries since instituting the workout program this year.
Taking a brief break during their exercises Friday, the 34-year-old Postma and Majda, 33, said that their training has so far been intense but rewarding.
“We’re learning from a great group and an experienced group,” Majda said.