Eighteen Firefighters and Fourteen EMTs Graduate Accelerated Program Helping Curb Job Shortages

A fast-paced training program produced new graduates who are ready to be first responders in local communities Monday night.

“It is a great rewarding profession to be able to help the community out in their greatest time of need,” said Chief Bill Parker of Blair Township and Training Coordinator at Northwest Regional Fire Training Center.

Eighteen firefighters and 14 EMTs walked across the stage, marking their graduation from the first accelerated programs at Northwest Regional Fire Training Center in Traverse City.

“It’s a good accomplishment. It feels good,” said Brian Buckley, a graduate.

Usually the programs are six months long, but the accelerated versions were four months.

“The board felt it was kind of important to condense these classes as much as we can so they could get the education they need and get out into the field as quick as possible,” said Chief Parker.

“We learned everything from flowing water through the fire engine and also extracting through vehicle crashes, search and rescue, and we were able to do live burns at the facility in a controlled environment,” said Buckley.

Graduates faced challenges along the way, but those challenges were all worth it in the end.

“The weather was something we battled quite a bit,” said Buckley. “Some cold days when you’re spraying water. Getting drenched, gloves freezing. But everyone did really well pushing through any barriers that we had to.”

The fire training center believes the accelerated programs will help fill positions in communities facing shortages.

“The big thing is it’s one or two people from different communities and different departments. So that one or two people doesn’t seem that much but will be big to go out into the communities and be able to respond,” said Chief Parker.

The new graduates are ready to start their careers in helping others.

“It’s eventful. You never know what’s going to happen on any given day,” said Buckley. “Some days are a little slower, but any minute something could happen that turns it upside down.”