By Joe Beck
People interested in gaining first hand knowledge about what's like to be a firefighter or emergency medical technician will have a chance to do so at the Warren County Fire and Rescue Service's Citizens' Fire Academy.
The free course is open to any citizen of Warren County over the age of 18 and will run every Tuesday evening from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for seven continuous weeks from Aug. 12 through Sept. 23. The first class is scheduled at the Warren County Public Safety Building, 200 Skyline Vista Drive, Front Royal. Later classes will also be held at the safety building and at other locations that have yet to be determined.
Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie described the academy in a news release as "an in depth look at our local emergency services delivery system and an opportunity for citizens to learn more about us."
The classes mix classroom lectures with hands-on demonstrations. Scheduled activities include exercises in which participants will use different types of equipment deployed by firefighters and emergency medical responders when they are called out to fire and accident scenes.
Participants will also watch a live fire demonstration of a mockup structure to help them understand the need for high levels of standardized firefighter training and the importance of fire prevention.
Mabie said the citizens' academy is not a rigorous firefighter or an EMT course "with all the blood."
Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico said in an interview that last year's citizens' academy, the department's first, attracted 11 participants, two of whom later joined the fire and rescue system as volunteers. One is an active duty member and the other is an associate who helps with fund raising and administrative duties, Maiatico said.
"We just used last year as a pilot program where we were able to build the course curriculum," Maiatico said. "We actually used the students to determine what they wanted to know about the fire and rescue system."
Maiatico said the department fields many calls from new residents with questions about fire and rescue services.
"This is an opportunity for us to welcome new citizens to the community and answer a lot of those questions," Maiatico said.
Anyone interested in enrolling can obtain an application online at www.warrencountyfire.com or by calling the department of fire and rescue services at 636-3830.
More information on the program is also available at the county website www.warrencountyva.net.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org