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Plans for city Fire Academy heating up

Some citizens might think the Mount Airy Fire Department exists solely to respond to blazes, but its work involves much more — which a first-of-its-kind program seeks to highlight.

City residents are invited to apply to the Citizens Fire Academy, a Monday night series of six classes scheduled to begin on May 1 and continue through June 12, with no session on May 29 due to Memorial Day. The Fire Academy will meet each week from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in a classroom at the fire station on Rockford Street.

In addition to the classroom activities, students will have the opportunity to participate in a ride-along with a fire crew.

The goal of the program is to help interested local residents learn about the multi-faceted operations of Mount Airy firefighters.

“To get the public to experience and learn more about what we do and what it takes to run a fire department,” city Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said Tuesday.

“I’ve had it on my mind to do for several years,” Poindexter said of launching the program.

This is coming on the heels of a similar Citizens Academy being held in recent months focused on city government in general and a longtime Citizens Police Academy devoted to Mount Airy’s law enforcement operations.

Fifteen to 17 people will be accepted for the Citizens Fire Academy classes. “We’ve got a couple signed up so far,” Poindexter said Tuesday.

The program will explore different topics on these dates, to be led by department members working in the areas involved, including:

• May 1: Fire Department Operations — This class will be an expansion of what has been covered in the regular Citizens Academy, but with much more detail, according to Poindexter, who will lead that session. It will include how and why firefighters respond to calls, the budgeting process, legal aspects and a comprehensive look at equipment used.

• May 8: Fire Department/EMS — To be led by Brad Harrell, this class will involve a detailed look at the department’s First-Response Program, calls responded to, the process of obtaining saves, funding and more.

• May 15: Fire Marshal’s Office — This class will provide an in-depth look at the department’s inspection process, including permitting, plan review and new construction inspections. It also will explore the code system and why things are the way they are when it comes to change of use and downtown residential, and explain new programs such as one for fire sprinkler grants. It will be led by city Fire Marshal Chris Fallaw and Steve Everett.

• May 22: Public Fire Education — The session, headed by Jason Burkholder, will cover how fire-prevention programs in the city are conducted and include a tour of the department’s Child Safety Trailer and a interactive fire extinguisher demonstration allowing students to use an extinguisher to put out a real fire.

• June 5: ISO Ratings — Led by Jason Burkholder and Kenneth Simmons, this segment will include an in-depth look at how the department obtains its grades, what inspectors look for and an explanation of how a grade helps citizens and businesses.

• June 12: Home and Business Fire Safety — This class will explore what students can do to keep those settings safer, including proper use of extension cords, exit drills in the home, heating safety and more. It will be led by Josh King.

A graduation ceremony for the class is scheduled for a June 15 meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.

All class members will be encouraged to sign up for a ride-along, preferably during the daytime on a Friday.

“Friday is our busiest day,” the chief explained.

To apply for the Citizens Fire Academy, interested persons should send Chief Poindexter an email with their names and contact information to — or call 336-786-3574 to register.

Connecting the dots

Poindexter agrees that there is sometimes an information gap concerning what citizens think they know about Mount Airy Fire Department functions and what actually occurs.

“We see it all the time,” Poindexter said.

“Hopefully, this going to bridge the gap,” he added regarding the Citizens Fire Academy.

For example, folks might wonder why fire personnel are frequently out on the streets when no blaze is occurring, which could involve the fact they are running a medical call.

“Why do we keep firefighters out at night?” is another question often encountered, the chief said, which is done for readiness purposes.

“It’s all about having coverage.”



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