Long Beach fire academy comes to campus

Firefighter recruits, fire engines and senior firefighters covered Cal State Long Beach ground on Veterans Day with ladders, hoses and gear in tow.

Their arrival marked the first fire academy to train at CSULB since 2008, said James Kovacs, training captain for the Long Beach Fire Department. The time gap resulted from a five-year hiring freeze in the LBFD.

As of now, 10 or more firemen from the LBFD must work on their days off because of personnel shortages created by budget cuts, Kovacs said.

LBFD Fire Captain Scott Wechsung said that the recruits often grow accustomed to the controlled training building in the fire academy. He said bringing recruits to CSULB forces them to enhance their thought process.

Wechsung said the Veterans Day holiday along with a number of available buildings at CSULB made the campus an ideal location for the academy to hone their skills.

During the training, the 32 recruits were split into four groups: two groups were stationed in front of the Vivian Engineering Center, and the other two groups were stationed inside Parking Structure 2.

The academy ran through a number of drills during the four-hour training session, including hose lays, emergency elevator accesses and ladder evolutions.

Each group was presented with a number of obstacles, such as using ladders to rescue a victim from a window, while the training bureau monitored each recruit from the sidelines. The ladder evolutions training required the recruits to place ladders against both the VEC and parking structure to simulate rescuing someone trapped in a tall building.

During the training, the fire academy recruits were faced with real-world obstacles by practicing different evolutions, or a sequence of practiced steps that help to increase predictability during an emergency.

“We get off the drill yard on 2249 Argonne Ave., where the academy is, and we come here [CSULB] to train the recruits in different evolutions as far as hose lays and laddering operations,” Kovacs said.

The recruits communicated with one another throughout the drills to practice tasks that required teamwork, such as pulling the hose out of a fire engine in a timely and safe manner.

The groups also practiced accessing an elevator with control keys, which provide emergency personnel with entrance to any elevator, said Josh Humphrey, a LBFD fire engineer.

By taking the fire academy outside of a controlled environment, Kovacs said, the recruits were given a chance to solidify what they learned in the academy.

The recruits are expected to graduate on Dec.7, when they will begin a one-year period working as probationary firefighters for the LBFD.

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