WATSONVILLE — Thirteen firefighters in training are currently in the eighth week of an 18-week program to become new firefighters through the Santa Cruz County Regional Firefighters Training Academy 19-01.
Held at Watsonville Fire Station Two on Airport Boulevard, the program leads the crew of 12 men and one woman through a host of drills on the ground and classroom time. On Monday, the crew took turns in a vent enter search drill, where each of them had to scale a ladder to the second floor of the training facility and haul a dummy out of a smoke-filled room safely back down the ladder.
Training Capt. Matt McCollum said he was teaming up with another captain and an engineer to get the crew through the courses.
There are four training firefighters from Santa Cruz, two from Central, four from Cabrillo College and three from Watsonville.
Kyle Wiesinger of Soquel said he is hoping to join up with Watsonville Fire at the close of his training.
“One reason I chose to become a firefighter is my best friend died and I was there when firefighters arrived,” he said. “It really influenced me. I want to do something social that will provide for my community. The academy is good. You have to be strong. The trainers have a lot of years of wisdom to share. Every day they have something new to share.”
ABOVE: Firefighters in training run through an enter-search drill at Watsonville Fire Station Two during an 18-week academy. (Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)
Kaya Baumgardner of Live Oak said she has “been having a blast” at the academy and plans on being taken in by Central Fire.
“It’s all about team work and learning to rely on each other,” Baumgardner said. “I got into this because I like hard work and something dynamic. I enjoy staying active and I like the grit. I’m an only child so this is like a new big family for me. All these are my new brothers.”
Training includes drills like high and low angle rescues, vehicle extrication, live burns, wildland fires and emergency medical services.
“We’re a team,” Wiesinger said. “We fail together and we win together.”