We began class with all recruits present – 21 of us, raring to go! The addition of these firefighters makes St. Paul the largest fire department in the state! Our uniformed personnel now total 434; Minneapolis Fire has, I believe, 427. These firefighters will enable our department to implement strategic changes in how we staff stations and operate fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in St. Paul. In many ways, they represent a strategic shift for us – a shift towards a brighter future and more effective and efficient service delivery. They looked ready to meet that challenge!
Today was focused primarily on orientation to the academy and the routine administration associated with bringing 20 new city employees into the workforce. Classroom activities in the morning and early afternoon covered:
- Housekeeping rules and an orientation to the academy
- A tour of the training facilities
- Personnel/payroll administration
- Orientation to the Fire Department and our general organization
- Distribution of Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) to each recruit: firefighting boots, gloves, helmet, hoods, and bunker pants and jackets.
In the afternoon, on-duty fire companies arrived to provide us an overview some of the department’s fire and medical apparatus: Ladder 18, Squad 1, and Engine/Medic 14. These units represent the typical “rigs” used in Saint Paul. The on-duty crews displayed the equipment carried by each vehicle type, and answered our questions about how each vehicle/company was typically used for fire and medic operations.
Then, the moment I personally was dreading: the one hour period of Physical Training (PT)! (I was a bit worried when the instructors provided the rules for “where to puke/where not to puke”)! Fire Training Officer, J. Deno, made it clear that the goal of the PT period was to work non-stop for 45 minutes, and that various firefighting-related activities would be injected into our continuous running and aerobic exercises. We ran….we ran to the 6th floor of the training facility’s drill tower….we ran around the block….we ran back up the tower….and down and around again. Injected into the non-stop run were various exercises designed to boost our heart rates to new and dizzying heights: chopping logs with fire axes, pulling large diameter hoses across the parking lot, doing pushup, opening and closing fire hydrants, lifting ladders, and using sledge hammers to move weighed sleds (the Kaiser machine – a chopping simulator).
I had done extensive walking and running over the last 3 months, so the running didn’t hurt too badly, and even running the stairs didn’t kill me, but the arms and shoulders were aching by the end of the physical training period! I survived, and it looked like everyone else did also. Of course, it was only Day One, and the work was bound to increase in intensity. We were told that eventually, we would be doing the physical training dressed in our full firefighting PPE ensemble AND with air packs on our backs – an extra 50-60 pounds to carry up and down those stairs! I cannot wait!!