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Firefighters get crash course behind wheel

Firefighters from three different departments recently converged on Wireway-Husky’s Denver facility.
It wasn’t to fight a fire, however, it was to train on how to drive the 40,000-plus-pound fire engines.
Around 20 firefighters from Sherrills Ford/Terrell Fire and Rescue, the Denver Fire Department and the Boger City Fire Department braved unusually cold weather to take part in a course that would certify them to operate a fire apparatus.
According to Denver Fire Department captain Kenneth Huffman, the class is the emergency vehicle driver class.
“Firefighters have to maneuver the obstacle course by avoiding cones placed throughout,” said Huffman. “Participants will also have to learn to back-up the vehicles.”
Huffman said the class is held once per year and is a five day course offered through Gaston College.
Full-time firefighter Johnny “Spanky” Roseboro was there to recertify, something he said has to be done once per year.
“A lot of the guys can go forward but not backwards,” said Roseboro. “Backing is the biggest challenge.”
Bright orange cones were set up throughout the course a certain distance apart from each other according to instructor Craig Austin.
“There’s different scenarios and lengths involved,” said Austin. “The firefighters here went through about five different stations including a diminishing clearance, straight line, and others.”
The cones used in the course for the straight line segment of the driving are set eight and a half feet wide and several inches apart from each other. The width of a fire truck is around eight feet two inches according to Austin.
Austin said all of the firefighters made it through the course.
Austin, who teaches the firefighter training courses through Gaston College, said the emergency vehicle driving course is a stand-alone certification; more courses are offered through the operation of the fire apparatus.
“The number of firefighters that go through the course varies,” said Austin. “There are a number of instructors that teach the driving course.
Firefighters maneuvered through the tricky course before being able to pull straight ahead. They then drove to another part of the parking lot, where they backed up the engines.
The goal was not to hit any cones and complete the course in a set amount of time.
Firefighter John Schlie hasn’t driven a fire truck in about six years.
He was a firefighter with DFD for 16 years but left. He came back a couple of months ago.
“I found out that I missed being a firefighter,” said Schlie.
During the training, where other firefighters didn’t fare so lucky the first time around, Schlie was taking the challenge all in stride.
“It’s just like riding a bicycle,” said Schlie. “You never forget.”
by Jon Mayhew

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