John Witherspoon, A-B Tech’s Fire Services Education Chair, said the program was set up to meet the needs of city and county Fire and Rescue departments. The next B-FIT academy will start in March 2013. “We will offer this training to anyone who is interested in a career in fire service,” he said. “We hope that high school graduates or those individuals anticipating a career change will consider our Fire Academy, which is the fastest way to obtain necessary certification.”
The firefighters will be prepared to sit for the Office of the State Fire Marshal’s test for Firefighter II and Hazardous Materials Responder Level I certifications. Firefighters from the service area provide instruction to the students. “The academy is like a go-home-at-night boot camp,” said Witherspoon. “The training is highly structured. The end result is candidates that are knowledgeable and respectful. We train on conduct and stress the importance of each individual as being a member of the team.”
B-FIT will be held at the new Buncombe County Public Safety Training Facility for law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical services, hazardous materials emergency response and other rescue and emergency personnel.
The regional 30-acre training center will adapt state-of-the-art techniques to region-specific challenges and increase the safety of the Buncombe County region and its emergency personnel. The facility includes multiple buildings with fire, emergency medical services and law enforcement training platforms.
The buildings are equipped with devices, systems and processes that simulate real-life situations encountered by emergency services personnel involving residential to industrial environments. Live fire trainings conducted under controlled conditions afford safe, effective training to firefighters in the region. Anchor systems located throughout several buildings provide rope work platforms for rescue personnel.
There is also an emergency vehicle operations course designed to improve drivers’ skills and reduce the likelihood of accidents while responding to emergency calls.
Students must be physically fit to join the academy because they are about to face one of the toughest physical and mental challenges of their firefighting career.
A firefighter dons about 50 pounds of personal protective gear comma including a self-contained breathing apparatus and starts by carrying almost 50 pounds of fire hose up several flights of stairs.
Firefighters battle a controlled blaze during A-B Tech Community College’s B-FIT Fire Academy.
At the top of the stairs, the firefighter drops the hose bundle and pulls up a second roll of hose at the end of a long rope. Back down the stairs, still carrying the original bundle of hose, the firefighter simulates a forcible entry by pounding a sledgehammer against a five-foot railroad tie, moving the heavy wooden beam five feet along a steel track. By this time, only a couple of minutes have passed.
The firefighter race-walks about 140 feet, picks up the nozzle of a charged one-and-three-quarters-inch hose line and advances the hose 100 feet, opening and closing the nozzle at the end of the advance, according to Witherspoon
“Students have said the hardest part of the challenge is the dummy drag. The firefighter must drag a 185-pound mannequin 50 feet. Once they cross the line, they don’t know whether to throw up, pass out, or cry,” he said. The minimum requirement for graduation is finish the challenge in under seven minutes.
Meeting the Challenge
The next BFIT Fire Academy will start March 11, 2013. It will be a day academy running from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for approximately 12 weeks.
An A-B Tech B-FIT Fire Academy student runs with nearly 50 pounds of hose as part of training.
To apply for the Fire Academy, call (828) 398-7355 to request an application packet. Application to the BFIT Fire Academy is a competitive process. Applicants will be scored based on reading comprehension, physical ability, and acceptance committee review. Acceptance into the academy will be based on the highest scores.
The application consists of:
- A physical evaluation (in packet) performed by a physician or clinic.
- Proof of high school transcripts or GED.
- Completion of the reading comprehension test (TABE).
The TABE is offered on the Asheville campus of A-B Tech, Monday through Thursday 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., noon to 4:30 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. It is also administered on Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to noon. Applicants from other service areas may consult with their local community college to secure this test.
Students must perform at a 10th grade reading level to be accepted into the program. Students who have a college degree and appropriate documentation may opt out of this requirement.
Complete the Fire Academy application packet and return it to the A-B Tech Fire Service Continuing Education Coordinator at [email protected]. Application packets must be completed prior to the agility test. Applicants must also have a physical exam prior to the agility test.
The physical agility test consists of:
- A 1.5-mile run — scoring is based on time with the maximum time of 15 minutes.
- Sit-ups — scoring is based on quantity with 25 as the minimum within one minute or less.
- Squats — scoring is based on quantity with 25 as the minimum within one minute or less.
- Push-ups — scoring is based on quantity with 25 as the minimum within one minute or less.
For additional information, contact Tommy Brooks at [email protected] or John Witherspoon at [email protected] in A-B Tech’s Fire Service Continuing Education Office, or call 828-398-7139.
Martha Ball is Communications Specialist at A-B Tech Community College.