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Firefighters train new recruits

KFD chief: New hires bring ‘youth, excitement’ to dept.

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GREATLY MISSED— Johnathon McKoon was a wrestler and an offensive lineman at Taylor High School. The community has rallied around McKoon’s family since he passed away in an accident.

Kokomo firefighters were hard at work last Wednesday training two new firefighters on proper procedures, in case of car fires in the city’s parking garages.

“It’s easily something that could happen any day,” Capt. Jake Lipinski said. “These parking garages are kind of new to Kokomo, so it’s just as much training for us veterans as it is for the new guys.”

Lipinski said there is a lot for firemen to learn in their first year. Between classes and hands on learning, he said it is important for new firefighters to have a clear understanding of various procedures.

“The only way to learn it is to do it,” Lipinski said.

Kokomo hired 12 new firefighters this year. Chief Chris Frazier, head of the Kokomo Fire Department, said KFD typically hires between five to 10 firefighters a year due to retirements or new positions that need filled. This year left more open spots than normal, so KFD got to work recruiting.

“This was a fairly high year, but we were adding a little bit to our staffing this year,” Frazier said. “Some of that contributes.”

Frazier said the department slowly started hiring firefighters over the last three years after about eight years of not hiring anyone.

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“This has been a big influx of youth and excitement,” Frazier said. “It really drives our training because we have new people who are learning things they’ve never done before. It gets our entire department involved in the training of these new recruits, because it gets everybody out and kind of re-energized about the job.”

New recruits spend about 16 weeks at the department’s in-house academy learning the basics. They participate in national standard classes that require them to make PowerPoint presentations, read books, take tests, and apply their knowledge to practical situations.

When putting out a car fire on the roof of the parking garage, Lipinski said firefighters supply water to the firetruck, extend the ladder on the truck, extend the lines, and spray water. They went through the entire procedure last Wednesday, including having the new firefighters climb the ladder to the top of the garage.

Battalion Chief No. 1 James James, who has 43 years of experience, said it takes a combination of experience and youthful energy to have an efficient fire department. Lipinski said he agrees.

“That’s what a fire department needs,” Lipinski said. “They need strong, young backs, and they need wisdom from someone who’s been around the block a few times.”

James said the diversity in age and experience is a unique aspect of Kokomo’s fire department.

“It’s awesome,” James said. “They’ll say that I’m old on certain days, but they’re young and it’s great. The mix of it is awesome. It’s really fun, and that’s what makes a fire department good.”