Fairfax residents graduated from the first ever City of Fairfax Citizens Fire Academy Tuesday night.
The graduates leave the three-month program with insider knowledge on how the City of Fairfax Fire Department operates and a mission to spread that information to their friends and family.
"Our goal is to tell you a little bit about who we are and what we do," Chief Dave Rohr said to academy students at the beginning of the program. "Next time I'd like to see twice as many people here."
The academy opened Fairfax's fire department up to city residents. Firefighters volunteered their time to lead two- to three-hour classes on a weekly basis. They took participants through the gist of code administration, showed them how to use fire extinguishers, and walked them through the place where they live and work.
Several hands-on lessons let residents fumble through a dark house for a fallen peer, extinguish a fire, as well as learn to properly fit a tourniquet and perform CPR.
Firefighters answered popular questions, like: Why do so many fire engines show up for a fire? Why do firefighters wiggle their butts every few minutes? Can you make my neighbor clean up his house?
Not all of the curriculum was lighthearted however. The instructors introduced new equipment and techniques by nodding to firefighting mishaps. Firefighting safety, they explained, is reactionary. New training initiatives and technology often come after firefighter deaths.
The department first considered holding a citizens academy in 2006 but outreach efforts were delayed thanks to budget restrictions, Captain Shawn Dunstan said. Though the money to host the program went away, the need remained.
A 2012 Local 2702 executive board meeting identified the department's lack of outreach and tasked Dunstan with starting a new, hopefully annual, initiative that would inform participants about firefighting issues and safety.
"We're getting this out to you so you can share it with others," Assistant Chief Andrew Vita said.
Check Patch later for video clips of memorable Citizens Fire moments.
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