Twenty-five men and women — young, eager, and well-trained – gathered in the well of the Board auditorium Friday night to receive recognition that relatively few in our community attain – their firefighter’s helmet. As the 120th Firefighter Recruit School graduates marched to their seats, retiring Fairfax County Fire Chief Mike Neuhard reminded them of their commitment to our community and to their families. Balancing responsibilities is important, he said, as he thanked the recruits and their families for the sacrifices they were about to undertake.
The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department operates an outstanding fire academy on West Ox Road in Fairfax where recruits learn the fundamentals of firefighting and emergency response. During the 20-week school, recruits train on everything from how to put on heavy fire jackets, boots, and face masks, to rappelling down a two- story concrete wall with a rescue victim harnessed to them. A rigorous classroom curriculum includes lectures and intensive book work, in addition to physical training. One of the more challenging exercises is a timed maneuver, in full equipment and breathing apparatus, through a series of narrow passageways in the dark. Twisting and turning, crawling on all fours, and snaking through an opening barely the size of a small packing carton, can make anyone claustrophobic. Add a little smoke, and even grown men would cry! Not so with the recruits, however, who work closely with their instructors to navigate the course successfully.
Six of the 25 recruits were assigned to Mason District fire stations; some were scheduled to report for duty the next day at 7 a.m., so their Friday night celebration was short-lived. Some most likely helped with the mop up of the three-alarm fire at the Lacey Instructional Center in Broyhill Crest or the house fire on Sunday in Westlawn. Thank you to all our firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians. It is reassuring to have them respond so quickly to our 911 calls!
The house fire in Westlawn was attributed to an unattended candle in a bedroom. During this bitterly cold stretch of winter weather, it is worth a reminder of good fire safety. Never leave lighted candles unattended, or where children or pets can get to them. If you have a fireplace, be sure that the chimney is clear and clean before you light a fire. When you are ready to sweep out the ashes, be sure to remove them to a metal container and place it away from the house. Ashes can remain hot or smolder for hours or days. Follow safety directions for use of electric or fuel-based heaters, and always make sure that there is adequate ventilation for their use. We have a great fire department, but not having to call is okay, too!