EVT of the Year Jerums Reflects on Career and Training

Jan. 11, 2022
Mike Jerums has been working on North Las Vegas Fire Department's fleet since 2006 and says training is key to keeping the fire apparatus fleet on the road.

“A lot of people outside of this industry don’t really see us or consider us part of the team,” said Michael "Mike" Jerums, from the North Las Vegas, NV, Fire Department. “Without our support, the fire department personnel could not operate."

Jerums was named the 2021 Emergency Vehicle Technician of the Year (EVTY) by FDSOA, Firehouse and Spartan.

Initially, Jerums worked at a GM dealership for 20 years, but wanted to get out of the commission-based repair work.

“It’s the same repairs every day, trying to beat the clock or the time allotted,” he told Firehouse.

Jerums’ goal was to work in a city public works department and in 2006, he was hired as a helper for the fire side of the shop under public works in North Las Vegas.

“They put me in the fire bay, and it was a very interesting time,” he shared. “I really enjoyed the vehicle chassis, then the pumps and the tools. When one of the guys went on vacation, I filled in.”

To advance his knowledge of fire apparatus, Jerums started studying and taking EVT tests. “There weren’t any EVT test sites in Nevada, so I drove 150 miles to take a test in Arizona,” he explained. He continued to pursue EVT certifications and attained Master Fire and Ambulance EVT certifications.

When asked about the value of the EVT Certifications, Jerums responded, “The thing with the EVT certification program is it forces you to study the NFPA manuals to see what’s going on with emergency vehicles to learn what’s legal or could put firefighters at risk.”

Jerums stressed the EVT tests are an eye-opener to all the regulations in place. “Without participating in the EVT program, you might not know about NFPA 1901 or 1911,” he said. “The tests cover a lot of material, including modifications that could endanger the firefighters. It gives you a lot more insight into the vehicles and become knowledgeable enough to be tested.

“The value of the EVT certifications also helps if you change jobs. The EVT certifications show you have the qualifications and knowledge to work on emergency vehicles and not just work on street sweepers,” Jerums stated. “You really have to study for the EVT tests, because they are really tough, versus the ASE tests. The ASE tests are designed for all vehicle manufacturers, while the EVT tests ask specific questions out of NFPA 1901, like about lights and so many lumens.”

The longer Jerums works on emergency apparatus, the more he appreciates what he is doing. Over the 16 years working full-time with North Las Vegas, slowly senior mechanics Jerums worked with were gone and he became the senior mechanic.

The shop has a radio and listens to the fire calls because it helps the mechanics realize what the firefighters and EMS personnel do on scene. It makes the shop feel a part of the whole fire department team and help in the community.

“I keep using the word rewarding, especially when the firefighters always come by and ‘say thank you’," Jerums said.

Regional growth in the North Las Vegas area has resulted in the fire department building three more stations. With only Jerums and one other EVT, they are “woefully understaffed,” he said. “We have 100 vehicles; 18 engines; four trucks; nine rescues; and technical vehicles.”

Like most EVTs, Jerums said they run 24/7—Sunday evening, Saturdays, even Christmas. Many times, it’s just responding to questions on vehicles in service. Jerums advises, “It’s not just a 9–5 job. After we leave the shop, we’re still on the clock,” he commented. “If you’re going to be a mechanic, you must adapt to that lifestyle. It’s a way of life.”

Currently, one of the most challenging parts of the job, according to Jerums, is dealing with the difficulty with parts supply, which results in working hard to keep the apparatus on the road. “We waited three months for 100 feet of wildland hose and by the time we received it, the wildfire season was over,” he said.

So, what does the next decade hold for emergency vehicle technicians? Jerums believes it will be computer science-based technology and electrical engineering.  “We spend more time with a laptop than a wrench,” he said. “In our role as mechanics and support, I think we’re going to start to see electrical emergency vehicles in services. We’re going to branch out into high-voltage systems, and we will have to learn and change.”

When I spoke with Jerums, he was in Wisconsin going over a new fire truck. The struggle to find more storage space on it was one more challenge for fire departments. Fire departments are being asked to take on for more tools and it’s up to the EVTS to figure out how to fit them on the rigs.

“Taking the air packs out of the cabs and more tools for a variety of calls, is a problem trying to use the same storage space,” he pointed out.

Like the rest of the country, the North Las Vegas Fire Department is having troubling hiring professional, skilled mechanics for vehicle maintenance. They recently had two job openings in maintenance and had only seven applicants. “People are not considering the professional skills needed in vehicle maintenance and there are no people to replace the ones that currently exist,” the EVT of the Year said. “Where will mechanics and emergency vehicle technicians come from? It’s a big challenge in our industry.”

The North Las Vegas maintenance shop has great support from the fire department and the firefighters. “It’s a very rewarding job being a fire mechanic,” said Jerums. “They back us 100 percent. I’ve seen mechanics work under Public Works departments and it’s a constant battle. Our department works with us, suggesting ideas and modifications or supporting what we recommend. The relationship we have is like a big department family.”

Fire Logistics Officer Scott Schuster nominated Jerums for the award. Schuster pre-arranged that when Jerums received the phone call telling him he was named the 2021 Emergency Vehicle Technician of the Year, the fire chief, department PIO and the vehicles from a nearby fire station were at Jerums' home to congratulate him. The rousing cheers over the phone confirmed their support of Jerums and his work in the shop.

“I’m so appreciative of them to nominate me for the EVT of the Year award,” he said. “We probably go above and beyond for our shop because the firefighters are saving lives, going into burning buildings for the people in the community.”

The 2021 Emergency Vehicle Technician of the Year was presented in partnership by Firehouse and Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) at the annual FDSOA Apparatus Symposium on Jan. 10, 2022, in Scottsdale, AZ. The EVT of the Year is sponsored by Spartan.

About the Author

Janet A. Wilmoth | Special Projects Director

Janet Wilmoth grew up in a family of firefighters in a suburb of Chicago. Wilmoth, who is owner of Wilmoth Associates, worked with Fire Chief magazine for 27 years until it closed in 2013. She currently is the project director for Firehouse, overseeing the Station Design Conference, Station Design Awards and other projects.

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