Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services helped 13 firefighters from the Clarksville-Montgomery County area take the next steps in their careers with Fire Fighter I/II live fire practical evaluations, hosted Sept. 16 at FCFES’s training facility.
Participants rotated through a variety of scenarios, from extinguisher training to combatting structural fires, to qualify for Fire Fighter I/II certification testing and learn from seasoned FCFES personnel.
“This is actually a requirement through the state of Tennessee for firefighters to progress in their training,” said Kevin Falsetto, fire training officer, Montgomery County Fire Department. “Without the partnership we have with Fort Campbell, achieving these certifications would be so much more difficult logistically. We gain so much experience from them when it comes to hands-on training, and something you can’t put a gauge on are the relationships that we build. That means more than just about anything we could ever do.”
Building relationships with community partners is important so that firefighters aren’t meeting for the first time on an emergency call, said Donny Plaster, assistant chief of training, FCFES.
“It allows us to work together, get to know one another and help the communities where our Soldiers live,” Plaster said. “We have plenty of active-duty Soldiers and retirees who live out in these communities, so when we help them with live fire burns, that’s also helping the Soldier who lives out in that area.”
Plaster coordinated the event with Randy Ellis, training chief and assistant chief, Clarksville Fire Rescue, since a majority of participants were CFR firefighters. MCFD personnel also attended, both as trainees and evaluators.
“Being able to come out here and meet new people is great, because we’re with the same group for 24 hours a day,” said Firefighter Brandon Smith, CFR. “When you meet a new crew, you get to experience how they handle live fires and training, because it’s not all the same.”
Smith said he appreciates the chance to learn from FCFES personnel while sharpening his skills for any potential fire scenario.
“It’s definitely been taxing,” he said. “It’s been several months since I’ve had to respond to a structure fire, and if you get complacent it affects you when you come out and perform at an exercise like today.”
Firefighter Kara Harris, MCFD, also said the training is a valuable learning opportunity she was eager to participate in.
“When they put it out that there was going to be a live burn on Fort Campbell, I signed up for it to get the extra experience and hose time,” Harris said. “The firefighters here are very experienced, and they’re an open source of knowledge.”
Evaluators like Michael Roberge, a full-time CFR firefighter and MCFD volunteer, offered additional pointers to participants as they took on each stage of the evaluation.
“Supporting these younger firefighters means everything,” Roberge said. “Giving that little bit of knowledge that you have to the next generation coming up is the best thing you can do to keep our traditions alive.”
Fort Campbell’s facilities are better-equipped for fire training than either CFR’s or MCFD’s, and traveling to post is an opportunity to learn new perspectives and tactics, he said.
“We want them to be successful in their training, we want them to pass and we want them to build relationships they’ll have throughout their careers,” Falsetto said. “These folks are fairly new in their careers, so those relationships will help carry them through – and that’s something you can’t put a price on.”