Four months into a 2-year residency program at the Frenchtown Fire Department, seven young cadets are already pulling victims out of burning buildings -– in simulation drills, at least.
"We want to create it as lifelike as possible for these guys,” said Frenchtown Firefighter Mel Holtz, standing outside the Frenchtown Fire District’s training facility. “We've got our fog machine going for fake smoke, we darken up the room, just as they would be going into a burning building where it's dark and black. They're using their hands a lot, and their tools to sound the floor to make sure that the floor is sound for them to walk on, and then to locating a victim."
Holtz says when the cadets complete the program, they’ll each have experience, and numerous certifications that will make them more eligible candidates to compete for the few highly competitive firefighting jobs that open up each year.
18-year-old Forrest Harring joined the Frenchtown Fire Academy straight out of high school.
"I joined because I had an interest in firefighting,” said Harring. “I knew that this place would offer me plenty of experience. You live at the station, so you touch on that every day."
UM Fire Science major Chris Lewis says, in addition to class work, the cadets work as volunteer firefighters for the department.
"You're on shift 4 days on, 4 days off. You basically run as many calls as possible,” said Lewis. "It takes a lot of work, and a lot of dedication, some long nights, and lots of training, but it's worth it."