Black hats, crisp coats, shiny buttons and wide smiles filed into the Lower Macungie Community Center on Wednesday, June 22, as thirty-five volunteer firefighters from around the Lehigh Valley and surrounding townships participated in a graduation ceremony held in their honor.
The six-month class was a combined effort on the part of Bucks County Community College and the Lower Macungie Fire Department. Approximately 190 hours of training time was invested by the students, which earned them certifications in several areas.
The class took place at Mack South, which is the Allentown Fire Academy Training Grounds.
According to Matthew Hatrak – Assistant Director for Certification and Curriculum with the Bucks County Community College Department - this is the first opportunity in this area.
“It’s a unique program because when the students first start off, they come in at a basic level. They start with first aid and CPR classes, and do an introduction to HAZMAT awareness, which gets their feet wet and gets them excited to be here,” Hatrak said during his speech.
The certificates the students earned are recognized nationally. The graduating students’ names will be placed on a registry which is facilitated through an organization based in Quincy, Mass.
Hatrak explained that no matter what state the graduating firefighters go to, with the exception of a few, they can be looked up to see if they were trained and have been certified to fight fires. The certification proves they took the tests, performed the skills, and proved to the evaluators and to themselves that they could perform their fire duties.
Justin DeLong, deputy chief of the Emmaus Fire Department and lead instructor for the Bucks County Basic Fire Program, awarded a special honor - the 2011 Firefighter I Bucks County Basic Fire Academy Most Outstanding Award - to Clint Ballek, a volunteer firefighter for Eastern Salisbury. He said it was difficult to choose just one of his students since all of them were “outstanding.”
DeLong stated, “The individual who is receiving this award went out of the way to help others even if they needed help themselves. They never complained. This individual just bit their tongue, ground their teeth, got down and dirty and would always ask if there was any more they could do.”
All speakers gave special thanks to the families who support their loved one on their journey to become the best firefighters they can be.
Area fire departments included:
The course was presented in seven sections:
1. Bucks Basic Fire Academy
2. HAZMAT Awareness Training and National Certification Testing
3. Basic First Aid
4. Healthcare Provider CPR
5. HAZMAT Operational Level Training and National Certification Testing
6. Structural Burn Session
7. Firefighter I National Certification Testing
According to a press release sent by Lower Macungie Fire Chief David Nosal, the Bucks County Fire Academy course “provides instruction to the student in basic fire fighting skills necessary to function as a responding member of a fire department.”
Topics covered included: building construction, fire behavior, fire extinguisher, fire hose & streams, forcible entry, ladders, personal safety equipment, ropes & knots, safety, SCBA, search & rescue, vehicle fires, ventilation, water supply and wildland fires.