MISSOULA, Mont. - The Missoula Rural Fire District Resident Firefighters Program gives hands-on experience to students who want to learn and train to be a firefighter.
"We get a lot of good experience through the process and we get to go on calls with career staff and work as firefighters so it's a really good deal," said resident volunteer firefighter Andy Ekblad.
Ekblad is a student with the University of Montana. He comes in to work as a resident volunteer firefighter every three days, working 12-hour night-side shifts.
"It's a great start in a career in the fire service and it's been a lot of fun so far," said Ekblad.
There are a total of 12 resident volunteers. They are stationed at 4 different locations.
"They receive the same type of training as a career person does and they are exposed to a certain amount of risk. We have firefighters who have come out of this program and that work for nearly every career program in the state of Montana," said Missoula Rural Fire District Chief Bill Colwell.
30 percent of his firefighters are volunteers.
They showed us some basic training like donning, which is putting their equipment on. They also showed us pulling and advancing a hose line. They work on first responder training and driver operator training too.
"It's just an excellent program. It's a good opportunity for young people who are preparing for a career to truly know what being a firefighter is," said Colwell.
Ekblad wants to continue the program and hopes to learn more.
"Just more about how the fire service works in general and how the fire service works," said Ekblad.
The program expanded about five years ago and students spend two to three years learning.
To be in the program, you have to be at least 18-years-old.