Tusayan Fire District seeks participants for upcoming academy
TUSAYAN, Ariz. — Because of the success of last year’s firefighter academy, the Tusayan Fire District is once again holding a volunteer training program at their station just south of Grand Canyon National Park.
The purpose of the program is to help the district recruit new volunteers, while allowing staff to share the firefighter experience with younger generations.
The five-week volunteer firefighting academy runs Oct. 14 through Nov. 11. Registration closes Oct. 7. The free academy is open to anyone 18 years and older and runs every Friday from 8 a.m.- 6 p.m
Participants will get hands-on training alongside firefighters in classroom and field settings, and will have an opportunity to experience life as a firefighter. They will learn skills such as preparing emergency response equipment, responding to motor vehicle accidents and extracting a trapped victim.
“TFD’s history is based in volunteerism and as one of few combination departments/districts in the area,” said Tusayan Fire Captain Greg Lawrence. “We have the great opportunity here to share and inspire a love for the job while simultaneously assisting our community.”
This year’s academy will be a week longer than last year.
“Because the academy takes place over five Fridays, we aren’t able to teach them everything, but will do our best to give them the tools they need to make on-the-job training more comfortable,” he said.
Academy participants will train alongside firefighters and experience the life of a firefighter.
“Something we all enjoyed last year was preparing and sharing a meal about halfway through the day,” Lawrence said. “Although it seems small, it gave candidates and instructors alike the chance to get to know one-another outside of the instructor to student relationship. TFD does value the family bond that the fire service has traditionally upheld and we can use something like family meals to share that value with new recruits.”
Candidates who complete the training will be offered a volunteer application. Volunteers are required to contribute 12 hours per month, which includes training. They are also expected to pursue CPR and first aid certification. Volunteers will gain practical experience, which could lead to a career as a full-time firefighter, according to Lawrence.
“The academy process of their onboarding should make coming on that much more seamless,” he said. “It is kind of a five-week job interview, but it’s an eight-hour day, one-day a week.”
Volunteer firefighters serve many of the same duties as EMT and paramedic staff with continual training provided after the academy.
As firefighters, volunteers can expect to carry and throw ladders, stretch hose lines, assist with vehicle stabilization and extrication, as well as perform CPR and first aid when needed.
“Because we do staff fully certified EMTs, paramedics and firefighters, the volunteer firefighter acts as another set of hands, eyes, and brains without risking their own safety in a situation which will require more training,” he said. “While on the job, volunteers train alongside these certified staff members, and are taught more skills that they may not be expected to perform on scene just yet, but it does give them a leg-up when/if they do decide to continue their formal education down the road and pursue the career full-time.”
Since last year’s inaugural academy, the department has signed three regular volunteers. Two of those volunteers are pursuing EMT certification, and one is pursuing wildland fire certification. Another volunteer has already moved on to a career in wildland fire.
“So, our academy, in my opinion, did work two-fold just the way I was hoping,” Lawrence said. “We did boost our personnel roster, while also inspiring them to continue down a path they may not have otherwise considered. I, for one, am extremely proud of what we accomplished last year, and I think I speak for all of the instructors who helped out, when I say it was one of the best times in my career.”
The program met its goals of increasing department staff size, its ability to respond to incidents in the Tusayan community, and inspire people to join the professional field, according to Lawrence.
“All of them were so grateful and reminded me of myself being sparked in the past to a different career,” he said. “We’re really trying to make our numbers greater for TFD personnel and make them feel confident to do the job. But at least a few people have since changed their life for the better (by going through this program).”
Staff size is critical for Tusayan’s rural district where there are limited and distant additional resources. The firefighting academy educates the participants about the challenges of rural firefighting before they sign on as a volunteer.
“I believe that this is one of the best places to work whether it’s paid or volunteer, not TFD specifically, but any fire department,” Lawrence said. “I think they should enroll just to see what it’s like and to understand a piece of their community that they might not otherwise.”
Those interested in applying can do so at TusayanFire.org and direct questions to Captain Greg Lawrence at Greg.TFDGC@Outlook.com, no experience required.