Fairfax County Welcomes New Volunteer Firefighters

Fairfax, Va. — Firefighter candidates from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue recruit class “VFF 2017″ completed their course requirements on March 17 in front of family and friends, who joined the trainees on Family Day to see their loved ones in action.

So, what’s next for the 16 recruits from eight County volunteer fire departments and the six candidates from the City of Fairfax who successfully made it through training?

“They get their lives back,” quipped Jonathan Wood, president of the Fairfax County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association.  FCVFRA represents the volunteer departments in the County.

While they had short breaks for Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the students took part in 470 hours of demanding training over nearly six grueling months while juggling full-time school or jobs.  The youngest candidates were still in high school. 

“They spent most Tuesday and Thursday evenings and every Saturday and Sunday since last Sept. 25 together,” Wood said.

The training started primarily in classrooms learning about topics such as ropes and knots, ladders, fire behavior, forcible entry, and safety.  But, once the recruits learned the basics, they began dragging hoses, climbing ladders, and running into burning buildings for training.  It culminated in a live burn and incident simulations where students demonstrated their skills in front of state evaluators.

The Firefighter I/II class is a national certification that exceeds the standards for the National Fire Prevention Association’s Standard for Firefighter Professional Qualifications.

“Because volunteer firefighters in Fairfax County perform the same operational role as their career counterparts, the recruits receive the same physically demanding training,” Wood said. 

The students had a support system throughout training, he added.  Colleagues spent some weeknights and weekends staffing medical aid stations at the Fire Academy to ensure training injuries could be treated as soon as possible.  Other volunteers from local fire departments signed up as actor-victims who had to be “rescued” by the trainees in various multi-person rescue scenarios.

One of the role players was Leslie Plummer, an administrative member from Annandale Volunteer Fire Department, who has volunteered for drills that evaluate emergency medical technicians and firefighters.

“I was impressed with the new graduates and with how the evaluators shared so thoroughly with family members on how their loved ones were fully trained to do the job safely and professionally,” said Plummer.

On Family Day, the recruits’ guests had the chance to see the soon-to-be firefighters put out a blaze in full gear.  Instructors interacted with them to explain interesting aspects of the job, such as how thermal imaging helps with locating and evacuating building occupants.

“It’s a team effort, from preparing the recruits for the Academy to ensuring we provide safe, successful training,” Wood said.  “Luckily, we didn’t have any serious accidents, and fellow volunteers helped make training more realistic and effective for our newest firefighters.”

Each year, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s Training Division offers one all-volunteer fire academy class.  In order to qualify for an academy slot, recruits must have a Virginia Emergency Medical Technician certification and pass a physical abilities test.

The recent graduates will be recognized at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s Promotional Ceremony on Friday, April 19, at 7 p.m., at the Government Center located at 12000 Government Center Parkway.  Many volunteer departments will also separately mark individual achievements with local events.

The 16 new volunteer firefighters in Fairfax County are:

McLean Volunteer Fire Department
Nicholas Lamp
Bruce Templeton

Vienna Volunteer Fire Department
Stephen Baldassari
Tina Chau
Zachary Smith

Franconia Volunteer Fire Department
Jason Farrar
Neal Sweeney

Bailey’s Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department
Sergio Carrillo
Tyler Thaler

Dunn Loring Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department
Shaun Pacious

Burke Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department
Billy Deacon

Centreville Volunteer Fire Department
Sammy Lin
Marcus Nelson

Greater Springfield Volunteer Fire Department
Sergio Nava
Diego Ramirez
Anthony Shaffer

Six volunteers from the Fairfax Volunteer Fire Department, which serves the City of Fairfax and is not part of FCVFRA, were also among the graduates of Class VFF 2017.  They are: Cory Bolsei, Ken Eglinsdoerfer, Todd Horacek, Sergio Lang, Nathaniel Murray, and Vitaliy Pisarenko.

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For more information about the Fairfax Volunteer Fire Department, which serves the City of Fairfax, visit www.fairfaxvfd.com.  The Fairfax County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association is a partnership of 12 volunteer fire and rescue departments in Fairfax County, Va.  Learn more about the Association and each of the independent volunteer organizations at www.fcvfra.org.   (3/21/2013)