Summit’s finest offer citizens a behind-the-scenes look at firefighting |

Summit’s finest offer citizens a behind-the-scenes look at firefighting

Breeana Laughlin
Special to the Daily

In a fire or another emergency situation, the public knows to stand back and let the experts take care of business.

However, this summer, Summit County fire and EMS experts are inviting community members to be part of the action and gain a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of local fire departments.

Participants will pull hose from a fire engine, put on protective equipment before entering a smoke-filled building and pry a car open with the Jaws of Life.

“It’s a good opportunity to see firsthand what the fire department does — not just watching from the scene as a bystander, but actually being in there,” said Kevin Skaer, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue lieutenant.

The Summit County Citizens Fire/EMS Academy features a series of nine classes from Aug. 1 to Sept. 19 that will immerse participants in all aspects of the fire department, from governance, budgets and funding to fire prevention. Participants will also learn about EMS operations and will get CPR training.

“People will get a better understanding of what we do, why we do it and how we do it,” said Ryan Roberts, division chief of training with Summit Fire Authority.

The academy could serve as an avenue for community members to continue their involvement with local fire departments by signing up for Fire Corps (a volunteer group that supports fire/ground operations), becoming a board member or joining a citizen’s advisory group, Roberts said.

The academy could even inspire a new career, organizers said.

“I think it will give people an added appreciation, and it might ignite an interest in the fire service to help serve the community,” Skaer said.

Firefighters spend a lot of time together – sometimes for days on end. They have to work through personality differences and come together in high-intensity scenarios, said Red, White and Blue fire Capt. Zach Hutchinson.

“Any time you spend a fair amount of time with somebody, there is a challenge of getting along with them. But there is also a great reward of getting through something together,” he said.

The ability to work within a team is a huge component of what firefighters do.

“We work closely in teams,” Roberts said. “Everyone has to work fluently to have a successful outcome on a fire, wildfire or safety incident.”

Students in the fire academy will be facing challenging situations together, and may experience similar phenomena as firefighters do, Hutchinson said.

“They are going to bond, and will have a different relationship with each other by the end of it,” he said.

The fire captain said he hopes participants at the academy will get a realistic picture about fire rescue.

“There is a perception that comes from television and movies, and I hope they will get to see what we actually do,” Hutchinson said.

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