Training academy offers Greeley Fire Department’s new recruits a tough, paramilitary introduction to the job
January 26, 2017
The Front Range Fire Consortium has another class of new recruits scheduled to begin training in late-February. Some of that training will take place at a facility near Greeley Fire Department’s Station 3, 150 N. 35th Ave.
About a month after the Greeley Fire Department hired Tim Gurule, he began a program for new recruits sponsored by the Front Range Fire Consortium. For Gurule, who served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 14-week academy felt like boot camp all over again.
"It's just like you see in the movies, with recruits getting yelled at and doing push-ups," he said. "Stress is kind of inherent."
It's the same training all of the Greeley Fire Department's new recruits receive. It is a collaborative effort involving fire departments stretching from Longmont to Belgrade, Mont. New recruits travel between the departments — sometimes staying in one city for three or four days at a time — before moving to another department. The departments have worked together informally since 1998, but this past week, the Greeley City Council approved an intergovernmental agreement that allows the Greeley Fire Department to work formally with other communities. The agreement standardizes fees member departments pay and the decision-making process within the consortium. As part of the consortium, departments share costs of the training. They even share vehicles and instructors.
For the Greeley Fire Department, and the other agencies that have been using the Front Range Fire Consortium to train their new recruits, it's a big step forward.
"It's been in the works for a while," said Greeley Fire Chief Dale Lyman. "I'm excited about it. It's kind of a unique arrangement."
Roger Waters, the Greeley Fire Department's operations chief, said the training recruits receive in the Front Range Fire Consortium is tougher than the academy he graduated from at Aims Community College in 1995. He said that's part of the point. It means new recruits are better prepared for their first real-world call.
As part of the consortium training, days often stretched into 16 hours, Gurule said. In addition to the physical aspect of the training, such as drills and conditioning, recruits had to pass a 100-question exam on a regular basis. They weren't given time to study during the day. They had to squeeze it in after days on the drill ground.
"They were long, grueling days," he said. "Your body gets more bruised up … and as the academy goes on, not only are you getting physically exhausted, you're getting mentally exhausted as well."
The difficult experience forces firefighters to form friendships, Gurule said, and it also ensures they can communicate well in the rush of an emergency.
"Recruits can learn from all these different departments, and that way if we all end up on a big mutual aid call, we know everyone's trained the same way," Waters said.
Gurule said he never even thought about quitting during the academy. He said after he graduated in December 2015, the pain quickly became worth it.
"When you swear an oath to the community, the community expects a product," Gurule said. "And the community expects the best product in a timely manner. The (consortium) gives you the ability to deliver that product. When you get on the rig for your first call, you're ready to do your job."