Testing physical and technical skills is crucial to ensure the candidate can master the demanding job of being a firefighter in modern times. At USAG Wiesbaden, four persons sweat the challenge.
The Directorate of Emergency Services, which includes the fire department at the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, has been actively recruiting. Currently, there are two replacement positions to be backfilled; in the medium term, the fire department will be strengthened by twelve additional positions. On May 12, four applicants take a rigorous and intensive recruitment test.
In the morning, the candidates wrote an essay, completed a 3-kilometer run, and took a multiple-choice quiz with general knowledge, first aid and fire-related questions. Fitness is crucial for a firefighter, as operations can take a long time and working in full protective clothing is very demanding. After the first part of the test was successfully completed, the candidates, all of whom already have experience and various advanced training courses from volunteer fire departments, were given more job-specific tests. In full equipment, they climbed a turntable ladder in a certain time and ran through an obstacle course.
"We have to test the candidates for fitness and readiness, these are the basic requirements for a successful job with us. But the personality itself is also important. The colleagues work 24-hour shifts about 11 times in a month, so it's essential that they also have a good interpersonal fit," says Fire Chief Daniel Corzelius.
The real nitty-gritty assessment is a fire attack, where the trainees simulate in teams of two. Protective suits, helmets, breathing air bottles, hatchets, picks and other equipment are attached to the bodies of the future firefighters. In addition, the fire hose must be carried in accordance with regulations.
The simulated source of the fire is in the basement of the building. According to the training scenario, they must explore in pitch black due to smoke development and a power failure. The temperature is currently around 29 degrees Celsius - this means hard, physical work for the candidates.
Backwards and on their knees, they work their way down the stairs as a team. The thermal imaging camera shows the team leader possible sources of fire - every locker, every niche and behind every door is seen. They perform a systematic search, strategizing for a missing person. Finally, in the last room, the "victim" lies in the form of a 25-kilogram dummy. Immediately the "unconscious" victim is rescued and brought out of the cellar. On the command "Charge the Hose line" the source of the fire is extinguished.
"The guys did a pretty good job," said Corzelius, while the next team prepares for the exercise.
Testing physical and technical skills is crucial to ensuring the candidate can master the demanding job of being a firefighter in modern times. Today's fire departments are still extinguishing fires, as they have done throughout the history of mankind. Yet, the tasks today are far more varied, this dramatically affects the job profile of the firefighter. What is required is a versatile person who, in addition to fighting fires, must also be proficient in tasks such as handling hazardous materials and rescuing the injured.