RHFD videoA short video of RHFD volunteer training.
A group of thirteen local residents have recently completed training to become volunteers for the Richmond Hill Fire Department.
For virtually no pay, these brave local men and women have committed to put their lives on the line as they will now be just a phone call away from assisting in local emergencies and disasters.
Why would an individual give this of themselves?
"To help the community," volunteer Michael Patrick said. "That’s the main reason I did this. This community has been good to me and I know a lot of good people here. I just wanted to give back and do whatever I can to help out my friends and neighbors in the event of an emergency."
If they wish to become state certified, the volunteers must complete two more training courses and pass the state exam. The class they just finished was entitled ‘Georgia Basic Firefighter: Module One.’ It included a 72-hour curriculum of book work, power point presentations and hands-on training. The volunteers concluded their Module One training Tuesday with a final written exam.
"Hopefully they’ll all come back with 100 percent on them," said lead instructor and RHFD Lt. Andy Burriss. "This was a great group of guys and gals, and this community should be really proud of the effort they put forth."
"We have a mix of younger and older recruits this time out," Burriss continued. "When we started out, I saw a bit of attitude and they were separated in cliques. By the end of the training period, everyone had everyone else’s phone number and they all just gelled really well. The final training phase saw a lot of hugs and clapping when one of the volunteers did well, and we just didn’t have that in the beginning. I truly believe that, right now, any of them would do just about anything for each other. There is a sense of brotherhood in their teamwork which is great because that’s the motto for firefighting."
Burriss said Module One is more physically demanding than it has been in the past due to state-mandated changes in the program.
"We set the bar with this group here," Burriss said. "From crawling, to getting out of tied up ropes, to ladder climbing – this group really pushed themselves and worked extremely hard."
"It’s much more challenging than I thought it would be," Patrick said. "It is things like this that truly separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls."
Patrick convinced his friend Michael Cooper to take the course with him.
"This hasn’t been easy," Cooper said. "You definitely have to be in top shape in order to keep up. It’s all been worth it though. I’m having a blast."
"If there was a spirit award to be given out for this group, Cooper would definitely get it," said lead instructor RHFD Lt. Andy Burriss. "He’s having fun out there and will make a fine firefighter one day."
Volunteer Patty Phillips has enlisted in order to expand her abilities on her current job.
"I’ve been a paramedic for about 10 years and EMS for 17," Phillips said. "In the past, I’ve had to stand back while the fire department did their part. I wanted the knowledge to help them out and be more useful in the event of an emergency."
Some young participants, like Cooper, 20, and Vincent Hartley, 19, are hoping to eventually turn their volunteer efforts into a full time career. Burriss said it is common to pull from the volunteer list when considering new RHFD staff members.
Burriss said, including this group, there are currently about 20 volunteers in the city. As the city and the department grow, he said the RHFD may eventually graduate three volunteers into fulltime status at the RHFD. There are currently nine fulltime firefighters in the city.
"We’re always looking for more volunteers," said RHFD Chief Vernon Rushing. "The more volunteers we have, the better prepared we’ll be for emergencies."
"I’m excited about this new crew," Rushing continued. "They’re real energetic and clearly up for the task which should bode well for the safety of this community."
For information on becoming a RHFD volunteer firefighter, call Burriss at 756-4405.