(WSGW file photo)

For people interested in becoming a firefighter, whether it’s on a volunteer basis or as a career, live fire training is invaluable. While many fire training academies can’t offer that experience due to high costs and travel, the Saginaw County Fire Academy was able to do so Monday, March 25 on the grounds of Hemlock Semiconductor in Thomas Township. The company has it’s own fire training area, which it offered to the academy to use for free.

The students come from departments around the county, including Taymouth, Thomas, Richland and Saginaw townships and more. Hemlock Semiconductor has its own emergency responders, who also participated in the training.

Two scenarios are presented: a propane type fire and what’s called the burn box, to simulate what a fire is like inside a structure. The students have to work together as a team to extinguish the flames.

Saginaw Township Training Officer Ray Wilson says the training is an essential part of the six month program.

“This is actually exposing them for the first time on the potential heat and smoke conditions, environment, and this was their first time through this. So it’s going to help them understand exactly what they’re going to be going into.”

Nursing student and fire cadet from Saginaw Township Morgan Phelps says the training isn’t for the faint of heart.

Students discharge air from the hose before entering the “burn box.” (photo by Michael Percha)

“It’s really hard to see, it’s dark, you gotta be on your hands and knees, you’re carrying heavy equipment and you gotta get to where the fire’s at. And then you gotta actually put it out. I could see how in a real life situation, depending on where the fire was at, you could be quite exhausted when you already actually find the fire.”

Wilson says firefighters are on the decline, with the majority of graduates becoming volunteer firefighters and just a small percentage pursuing firefighting careers. But he says he feels pride every time a class graduates, as the firefighters go on to serve their communities.