New career firefighters are now on the block in Aspen, as the Aspen Fire Protection District has recently completed an orientation boot camp for all paid (career firefighters) as well as volunteer firefighters, to strengthen their skills and learn more about how they can work together in the future. Some of the new staff begin Sunday.
Fire Chief Rick Balentine said this week that the new career firefighters are ready for a busy summer and fall ahead.
“This is the first week for the career firefighters, and they start their shift schedules on Sunday, where we will be staffing a combination of career and volunteers at our downtown and North 40 fire stations, working side by side to provide quick and professional response 24/7 from these duty crews, and backed up by the remainder of our volunteer firefighter staff,” Balentine said.
He added that the training and workouts for a firefighter are intense.
“Training for new volunteer recruits is quite extensive, as they are all required to become State of Colorado certified Firefighter I, as well has having a [hazardous material operations] certification and also [be] certified as an emergency medical responder ... to be a member in good standing with Aspen Fire,” Balentine said.
“These are the same minimum requirements that our new career [paid] firefighters are held to as well. These combined trainings are at least a couple hundred hours of training, spread out over the better part of a year.
“Our plan is to have a minimum staffing level at all times of at least four first responders, which will be a mix of both career and volunteer firefighters,” he added.
Masks on, always
When asked what the training is like during the heat of the summer and during a pandemic with masks and other safety protocols, Max Lyall — a veteran paid firefighter of five years from Crested Butte — said, “Most of the work we do is with a mask on anyway, so it’s really not that different.”
Whether with a mask on because of COVID-19 or just wearing a firefighter’s everyday work attire, Balentine said he is confident that the volunteer firefighters and career firefighters will work as a team.
“Some of the career firefighters are coming from our volunteer ranks, so there is already a lot of familiarity and institutional knowledge they will bring to the table to share with the other career firefighters,” he said. “I am confident the transition will go smoothly and will only help to expand our services to the community at every level, like we have been doing since 1881.”
Volunteer firefighter Fabrizio Brovelli explained what the firefighters have been working on.
“Attack a building with water, extinguish fire, forceable entry, deploy ladders, using any type of power tools, extinguishing car fires,” he listed.
Lots of safety precautions come into play, too, especially when operating during a pandemic.
“Safety matters,” Brovelli said. “Safety is a priority because these are all very dangerous jobs. Right now, we are using the training facilities.”
Like Brovelli, other volunteer firefighters are proud of the hard work put in during this week’s training sessions and are ready to get out in the field.
Volunteer firefighter Larry Feinman chimed in, explaining that he thinks the orientation and new training workshops with the career firefighters and volunteers will be a success and help them to be productive in the future.
“I think it will be more organized — more structurally organized — to provide better service to the community,” he said. “There will be a lot more opportunities for training and to stay proficient in everything by the way it is set up.”
Antonio Degoldi, another volunteer firefighter based in both the North 40 and downtown Aspen stations, said he is excited to be representing and helping the community.
“The training provided by Aspen Fire is incredible,” Degoldi said. “It is a big part of our community: helping people and just trying to be the best firefighters in Aspen. It’s what we are here for.”