Rescue lessons in Vail |

Rescue lessons in Vail

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS fire academy 1 KA 5-2-11

VAIL, Colorado – Firefighters need to become so intimate with their gear that training often looks unnecessarily tedious to those on the outside, but it’s not.

Twenty one rookie firefighters are in their third week of training at the Mountain Metro Fire Training Academy, a joint training academy hosted by the Vail Fire Department and the Eagle River Fire Protection District.

This is the third year of the academy and the first year the trainees can train in an actual fire station, the brand new West Vail Fire Station.

Last year they trained in the gymnasium at the old Battle Mountain High School, and the year before that they were in another facility downvalley.

Vail Fire Chief Mark Miller is thrilled to host the guys who will spend 14 weeks total learning how to become firefighters. Some of the guys will also work on two-year degrees at Colorado Mountain College as part of the program, while others who already have degrees will seek jobs all over the country.

“These are young guys that want to get into fire service,” Miller said. “They bring a ton of energy, enthusiasm and passion.”

Monday’s training included putting out live fires and putting on and taking off important personal protective equipment like breathing tanks and face masks.

Vail Fire Capt. Scott Bridges had trainees repeat using the gear over and over again as he focused on safety during Monday’s lesson.

“If we get hurt, we can’t help anybody else,” Bridges said.

The trainees put on their oxygen tanks, which were affixed to straps like a backpack, as Bridges explained which steps they needed to take and when. They also needed to be able to get all of their gear on, from head to toe, in under 60 seconds.

“Don’t lose control of those straps,” Bridges shouted. “If you lose those straps, you’re done.”

Miller said the equipment training is so critical. Firefighters need to be able to do it in the dark, with gloves on or whatever the situation may be.

“There’s pressure on them to perform accordingly,” Miller said.

When the 21 trainees finish the academy, Miller said they’ll be pretty marketable firefighters. Some will end up hired on as full timers with Vail or Eagle River, and other will start applying all over, he said.

“This is a good group of guys,” Miller said. “They’re learning a ton of respect here, and the chain of command. This is a great program.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or