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Fighting fires and beyond: Fire Academy class members learn about DMFD


Elizabeth Medora

NORTH VALLEY – What does it take to be a firefighter? In the past six weeks, Daisy Mountain Fire Department Citizen Fire Academy class members have gotten an inside look at the work of a firefighter.

The DMFD Citizen Fire Academy provides class members information and hands-on training, which class participants describe as both eye-opening and fascinating.

Class member Stacie Priest said she has “learned so much” from the Citizen Fire Academy. Dressed in turnout gear, including the extra weight of an air pack, Priest embraced the Fire Academy experience at last week’s class – she and the rest of the class got the chance to go up in the ladder truck “basket”, as well as practice with extrication tools on a car from a junkyard.

Priest took the Community Emergency Response Team class several years ago, and she put that training to use in August 2014. A resident of Black Canyon City, Priest assisted with flood recovery in BCC after the major storm of Aug. 19, 2014, working in an area that had been isolated by floodwaters. Her experience with CERT encouraged her to delve deeper into rescue and preparedness training through the Fire Academy.

Paul Schickel, Fire Academy instructor and DMFD Community Services Program Coordinator, said that the Fire Academy includes a combination of hands-on training, lectures, and instructional videos, noting that the multiple modes of instruction allows class members to “get the biggest impact.” Fire crews attend specific classes to offer instruction and help out with demonstrations, and cadets from DMFD assist class members, too, all in an effort to make sure participants get the most out of the experience.

“Where else are you going to have this opportunity?” Schickel said, as class members cut up an old car with saws, practicing patient extrication from a vehicle.

Class member Vicki Love was encouraged to join the Citizen Fire Academy by her neighbor, who took the class herself for a second time this year; Love also took CERT several years ago.

Love said after going up in the ladder basket that it offered an entirely different perspective for firefighting.

“You get to see how to fight the fire from there,” she noted. Love said the class has offered “knowledge of what the firemen do”, including the safety precautions and the many aspects of rescue work.

The intense level of preparation and hard work necessary for firefighting is represented by the variety of tools on the DMFD ladder truck – everything has a purpose, and rescue scenarios have been carefully thought out to ensure that needed tools will be available to crews. The tools on the truck include a variety of saws that allow firefighters to do everything from gaining entry to burning buildings to cutting into a crumpled car to rescue a trapped occupant. The truck has a full medical emergency kit, as well.

During the class, Schickel noted that saws are sometimes used in firefighting to cut a hole in the roof of a burning structure to allow smoke and heat to escape, which expedites searching for anyone trapped in the building and allows firefighters to stay in the structure longer. Multiple steps are taken to control the fire, and once a fire is under control, firefighters will salvage what they can for homeowners, as well as cover up furniture with tarps or move it outside, if possible.

“We will try to take care of your stuff the best we can,” Schickel said, explaining the salvage process. “We want to save the stuff that is not readily replaceable.” This includes items like photos, awards, jewelry, and other valuables.

The ladder truck allows firefighters to direct water aerially, with both precision and extreme force to put out large structure fires more safely and quickly.

DMFD Captain Lon Spencer listed other tools on the ladder truck, including a vacuum that can suck up water from a home flooded by a broken pipe or something similar, jacks to lift up cars, generators to power equipment, and multiple hooks and other tools to help gain entry to homes in emergency situations. Spencer also explained that the truck includes four outriggers, which stabilize and level the truck when the ladder is in use.

For class member Lisa Johnstone, the Fire Academy has been a learning experience in a special, bittersweet way. Johnstone’s husband was a Phoenix Fire firefighter who was well-known and well-loved throughout the community; he passed away in an off-duty accident over two years ago. The Fire Academy has allowed Johnstone a glimpse into her husband’s day-to-day work, and she said she is grateful that DMFD is offering this class.

“This program is so amazing to me,” she described. “This has been a beautiful experience.”

For all the class members, the Citizen Fire Academy offers an 8-class look at the life of a firefighter and the day-to-day dedication required for the job.

“You get a whole new admiration for these guys,” class member Love emphasized.

Class participant Priest concurred, saying the Fire Academy helps show “who our true superheroes are.”

The 2017 Citizen Fire Academy is almost over, but you can learn more about emergency preparedness in another class from DMFD, starting March 2: CERT. Find out about signing up for CERT by contacting Paul Schickel at (623) 695-1424 or

Special thanks to DMFD Engineer Mike Mattingly for the ladder truck demonstration!