New firefighters go through hands-on training

The La Crosse Fire Department has welcomed five new firefighters. However, before responding to calls, the new recruits are required to go through four weeks of training.

For Scott DeLong, the summer training is not his first experience as a firefighter with the La Crosse Fire Department.

"Me and another guy actually started in April," DeLong said.

That other guy is Dominick Mellick. Although both men had one week of training after joining the department, they now join three other new firefighters for the training academy.

"We had a taste of it, and now everything is starting to come together," Mellick said. "It’s actually really fun. It makes us more confident in our job."

One big part of the job is fighting fires. Although the training includes practice running hoses and responding to calls involving burning buildings, it also provides hands-on experience for a variety of other situations the new firefighters might find themselves in. On Tuesday, the crew spent the day on the Mississippi River honing their water rescue skills.

"It’s kind of refining those basics, and then, adding some advanced stuff and just making us more professional," said DeLong.

"It not only establishes a standard for them for the rest of their career, but it also solidifies that we are all training the same," said Division Chief Frank Devine with the La Crosse Fire Department. "That when we’re working as crews or as stations together at an emergency scene, everybody is on the same page."

The firefighters do not see the training as work, but instead as an opportunity to improve.

"We’re getting better every day at it and making sure that we can provide the best care that we can for the City of La Crosse." said Mellick.

It is another step forward for the men in their journey to protect and serve local residents. The new firefighters will finish their training phase on Friday, August 17. Then, they will each be assigned to a station, a shift, and an apparatus. 

Although they can respond to calls right away, they will all go through a one year probationary period. A final skills test after eleven months will make them official firefighters with the La Crosse Fire Department.

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