Archive for Thursday, May 4, 2006

Department begins recruitment

May 4, 2006

If the idea of watching a car or mobile home burst into flames once every few months sounds appealing -- or the possibility of being able to save lives or property raises an eyebrow ---- deputy fire chief Mike Underwood is ready to talk.

That's because the Eudora City Fire Department has officially embarked on a month-long recruitment drive aimed at residents at least 18-years-old to make up its next training roster. When the smoke clears, the department could have up to 10 new faces around the station.

"We'd love to have males or females. We're definitely an equal opportunity employer," Underwood, said. "They just have to be physically fit to be able to perform."

The prospective class will help beef up the department in preparation for Eudora's expected population growth and help shore up holes created by positions vacated within the last year.

"Last year we had five members move out of town," Underwood said. "We didn't let anyone go."

The city department currently has 17 volunteers, Underwood said.

Their duties include responding to calls on a walkie-talkie system provided by the city, attending meetings and training sessions and helping with public awareness efforts.

Recruits are paid for training, department events and for each call once graduated.

Although the drive pressed forward without a full-time fire chief, Underwood said he didn't expect the still-open position to cause problems.

"Right now, my input is that the council will choose a chief that is best fit for the position," Underwood said.

The year-long vacancy hasn't stopped interest in joining up with the city, Underwood said.

"We've already had a few people interested," Underwood said.

Originally, the department put off the drive until a new chief was found.

"It's gotten to the point where I felt it's in our best interests to get it started," the interim chief said.

In addition to having to live in Eudora and being of age, prospective applicants would need to pass drug and agility tests, Underwood said.

"We're looking for anybody with fire related experience, but it's not a must," Underwood said.

Applicants would go through a general interview and a second more in-depth interview with other members of the fire department.

If an applicant passes the screening tests and interview, the next step would be the beginning of a year's worth of training, Underwood said.

The training includes meeting with staff and taking courses through a training process that would include classes taught by instructors at Kansas University.

"We definitely believe in a philosophy that safety comes first," Underwood said.

No one would go out on call unless they were fully trained, he said.

Among the training exercises would be lessons on the breathing apparatus and live burns of cars and trailers, Underwood said.

These burns pit trainees and current firefighters in full regalia against a controlled blaze.

The Eudora City Fire Department often trains with the Eudora Township Fire Department to build rapport between the departments.

Underwood said the department would review its options again at the end of the month.

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