It takes a special type of person to become a firefighter. Long hours and grueling work go into making emergency service personnel into a cohesive team that can quickly respond to an emergency. In recent years, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune firefighters have been running at 30% capacity, frequently having to respond to multiple fire houses within the same shift. This is a problem they are trying to fix.
“In the past, our hiring process has been restrained,” said Chris Parker, fire chief on MCB Camp Lejeune. “We now have direct hire authority, which has allowed us to advertise locally.”
Starting last month, six new fire fighters were added to the ten installation fire houses. This month, six more were hired. Coming from firehouses across Eastern Carolina, they must undergo training classes to learn about their new positions. This class of new hires is different than the first class, and any other class that came before it.
Currently, there are only two female firefighters on the Camp Lejeune installations. In a predominantly male centered career field, very few women even attempt to become firefighters. This new class has four female candidates.
“There have always been female firefighters, but not many,” said Captain Will White, firefighter and paramedic on MCB Camp Lejeune. “I think it’s great that they are getting more representation. This batch will triple the amount we currently have.”
During their training process, the new candidates were required to complete a live burn exercise, July 11, to demonstrate their skills.
“The purpose is to insure the new hires have the requisite skills to carry out their new positions,” said Michael Fennema, assistant fire chief on Camp Lejeune. “We have numerous lieutenants, captains and paramedics out here to supervise and insure everyone is safe, but we essentially simulate a structure fire and require the new hires to put it out correctly.”
The new hires went in groups of two, accompanied by an established firefighter and quickly accomplished their goals. Wearing full gear, and using their hose, they breached the door and extinguished the fire.
“It is exciting to be able to use the new facilities,” said Fennema. “Other than when the trainers used the new building to practice for today’s training, this will be the first time we get to use it. It is made so that the fire should be unable spread to the surrounding area. It allows for the primary hose and two additional lines to control the fire. Preburn tests are completed on all wood going into the structure to check the integrity of the pieces to ensure there are no surprises.”