Fire Chief Dewey Woody told the board the department is moving forward with plans to offer all Rookie School training on-site, rather than sending new recruits to Nashville.
“The next step in this process is that we send this to the Tennessee Commission on Firefighting. They review it and if they approve it then it (can be implemented),” Woody said.
Woody said the department has asked for advice from the fire commission in drafting the plan. He said he feels it will be approved.
The plan will be a cost-saving measure when firefighters are needed to staff three additional paid stations. The rookie training for Firefighter I and II certification would typically cost more than $2,000, including food and hotels at the Fire Academy in Nashville.
Woody said Bradley County Fire Rescue began looking into this a couple of months ago in preparation for the 39 rookies that will be coming in as part of the expansion of the department.
“This (fire department expansion on this scale) is not occurring anywhere in the state of Tennessee,” Woody said.
In-house training is typical in larger fire departments, according to Woody.
In developing the program proposal, Woody has spoken with several other large departments that are doing similar things.
The program will require 480 hours of training.
“It’s 61 days of training,” Woody said.
The classes will be for the full-time paid position staff and will be available to volunteers who want to attend. The class will have an average of 12 firefighters per class. The department will also begin requiring First Responder training for firemen. Woody said this will be offered on-site by working with the Emergency Management Agency. Training for volunteer firefighters will also be intensified.
Hiring of the first wave of new firemen will start soon.
“We’re going to start that process by having the information in the paper,” Woody said. “Then what will happen is testing physical agility. We hope to hire everyone in a lump sum and that they have different starting dates.”
Right now, the chief projects the first group will be going to work in August.
Applications and the written test portion of the interview process are handled by human resources. Woody said he doesn’t know who has applied until the physical agility test. Applicants must have a high school diploma and no felony convictions. Board member John Tyler Sr. asked if the department had anything in place to keep people from leaving the department to work somewhere else after completing the training. Woody said discussion has started on this topic, but no official action has been taken. One idea would be to require rookies to sign a contract that if they left within a certain amount of time after training they would have to pay for the training.
Woody said BCFR is blessed to have the resources and growth plan it does, especially when some smaller departments in surrounding counties are just trying to maintain what they have.
“We’re very blessed in so many ways when you look at what we have and the capabilities we have,” Woody said.
“This is very exciting that this is moving forward and we are going to have something we can be proud of,” board member Ed Elkins said.
Woody said the current BCFR is something to be proud of and is known throughout the state as a good department. After the increased fire coverage, the board will “be elated,” Woody said.
Fire board member Briant Berry asked about rumors that some volunteer stations were going to be closed. Woody said the department needs all of its current stations and the three that will be built will be needed to provide adequate fire protection for all county citizens.
The board also received a verbal overview on the specs for fire equipment to be bid. The department will not be combining a bid with another county because no one else in Tennessee is buying similar equipment.