Our local firefighters are always on call ready to respond when an emergency arises and rescue those in need of help.

On day two of our series on first responders, we find out what it takes to be a volunteer firefighter.

Every fire is unique in its own way, whether it's an easier fire to put out or one that presents challenges, some of which may put a firefighter in danger.

Silverton Volunteer Fire Company Chief Bob Sinnott says if a firefighter is in danger they have a special piece of equipment that signals a call for help.

"If a firefighter gets lost or is down or missing they have a pass alarm, which is a safety alarm on their breathing pack, and they could push the button or if they fall down and become unconscious then the alarm automatically goes off and our firefighters are trained to then go in and look for the firefighter that's down," Sinnott said.

They also have procedures in place so that if crews on the outside of a structure notice a fire getting out of control, they'll sound an evacuation alarm on the trucks to order out the firefighters battling the blaze.

In an instant a car, a house or a business can erupt in flames and firefighters have to know what to do when they get there.

Chief Sinnott explains that the response to a fire by firefighters depends on its size, time of the day it occurs and any occupancy.

"Every call dictates what we're going to do, if it's a confirmed fire and the dispatcher receives multiple 911 calls, we'll go right to a second alarm or a third alarm and bring additional resources in just in case we need them," Sinnott said. "Unfortunately you can never be prepared for the next situation 100-percent but we try our best to come up with every different way to throw twists into our training drills."

He explains that firefighters practice all possibilities in training drills held at the Toms River Fire Training Center (as seen in the video below).

There are 300 firefighters at six stations in Toms River and they are all volunteers.

They all have to go through extensive training at the academy before putting on the gear.

At the Toms River Fire Academy trainees have to go through more than 300 hours worth of courses testing different skill sets.

Between becoming a firefighter and once on the job they have to go through schooling to advance up the ladder.

  • 40-Hours to be a Level One Fire Instructor
  • 45-Hours to be a Level One Fire Officer in the classroom.
  • 24-Hours of training for Basic Pump Operations to learn about water pressure and hoses.
  • 24-Hours of instruction for Engine Company Operations.
  • 16-Hours of Swift Water/Flood Operations training on the dangers and powers of water.
  • 16-Hours of On-Scene Incident Commander training for individuals with management control responsibilities.
  • 16-Hours of training for Emergency Vehicle Operations.
  • 4-Hours for a Technical Rescue Awareness course.
  • 8-Hours of course training for Emergency Services Trailer Operation.
  • 14-Hours of training for School Bus Extrication. 
  • 12-Hours of classroom instruction to be an Aerial Apparatus Operator (including on ladders).
  • 24-Hours of training for Truck Company Operations.
  • 240-Hours of instruction, testing and other exams to become a Firefighter Level 1 & 2.
  • 80-Hours of training and coursework is required to be a Firefighter Level 2.
  • 16-Hours of training are needed to be a Safety Officer.
  • 40-Hours of course work on Vehicle Extrication.
  • 40-Hours of course work to become a Fire Instructor Level 2.
  • 32-Hours of training to become a member of the Rapid Intervention Company/Rapid Intervention Team Awareness & Operations.
  • 45-Hours in class to be a Fire Officer Level 2.
  • 4-Hours of training on Conventional Forcible Entry.
  • 4-Hours of training on Vent, Enter, Isolate, Search.
  • 8-Hours of course work on Ropes & Rigging for Confined Space Rescue.
  • 16-Hours of course work for Incident Management Level 200.
  • 24-Hours of course work for Incident Management Level 300.
  • 14-Hours of course work for Incident Management Level 400.
  • 4-Hours course on American Heart Association BLS for Health Care Providers.
  • 4-Hours course on Swift Water/ Flood Water Awareness.
  • 8-Hours of course work on Air Management and air consumption during fires.
  • 24-Hours of course driving for Emergency Vehicle Procedures for the Professional Driver.
  • 3-Hours of course work on the Clandestine Drug Lab.
  • 4-Hours of course work on Hazardous Materials Awareness.
  • 8-Hours of course work on Hazardous Materials Operations.
  • 2-Hours of course work on Infectious Disease Control.
  • 16-Hours to complete a Fire Police Certification Course.
  • 8-Hours of course work to become a Drill Ground Instructor.
  • 4-Hours of course work to Size-Up with an evaluation of problems confronted within a fire situation.
  • 4-Hours of Fire Officer Orientation.
  • 3-Hours of coursework to learn about Fire Detection & Suppression System.
  • 12-Hours of course work on Fighting Fire In Commercial Buildings.
  • 90-Hours of course work for a Fire Prevention Inspector Certification.
  • 40-Hours of course work for a Fire Official Certification.
  • 4-Hours of course work on Arson Detection Awareness For The First Responder.
  • 4-Hours of course work on The Art of Reading Smoke.

Chief Sinnott says being a volunteer firefighter also presents certain challenges and it means you're likely working with different people every time you respond to a fire.

"Everyday is a challenge in the volunteer fire department because you're never going to have the same crew, the same people and the same amount of people on each truck," Sinnott said. "On a Saturday you might get more people because people are home from work, at night you might have more people but during the daytime you have to call more companies and more resources, so you're going to have mutual aid stations working with your company."

They run training drills with other fire squads to practice working together in preparation for when they'll do so again in the future.

Firefighters have different stories from the calls they've responded to on the force, but how do the tragic tales affect them the next time they're called out to a fire?

Chief Sinnott says there's not much a firefighter can do to prepare for a situation where a person or a pet dies in a fire and it does take a toll on them.

"You can't prepare for it and a person's worst day is when were there so when someone's house is burning down and a loved one is either injured or a pet dies, now as a fire department we have to bond together as a group," Sinnott said. "You do second guess yourself saying 'what else could I have done to make the outcome different?' and sometimes there is nothing, we did everything we could do and the outcome is still going to be a bad outcome."

He says firefighters have such a bond that they're able to work through the after-emotions of battling a fire where lives were lost.

"You're working together 24-hours a day, sometimes you fight with each other, sometimes you're friends with each other, you party together, go to gatherings together, work together...so it's like a second family," Sinnott said. "The job requires you to bond because what I do wrong affects you, what I do right affects you so everybody has to work together. It's a group effort to put the fire out and save someones life."

To learn more about what it takes to be a firefighter, watch the video below:

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