How Much Training is Considered Enough?
April 18, 2010
APPLETON, WI – When a fire strikes their home or business, most people don’t think about how much training the firefighters have gotten. They just want the fire put out.
But it’s worth considering. Wisconsin requires 60 hours of basic fire training. If you broke that down into eight-hour workdays, it’s 7½ days. That doesn’t seem like a lot when you consider all that’s involved in saving someone’s life, property or life’s work.
Some county fire chiefs associations are considering a push for steeper requirements — twice as many hours of basic training for all new firefighters — and they have a point.
Jeremy Hansen, head of the fire protection program at Fox Valley Technical College, told The Post-Crescent the number of hours required for fire training “is just enough information to get you in trouble.”
Considering how frequently equipment and tactics can change, it makes sense for firefighters not only to receive more training at the start, but also to take refresher courses throughout their careers.
But we’re concerned about how tougher requirements would hinder departments that rely mostly or solely on volunteers. In Wisconsin, an amazing 85 percent of firefighters are volunteers, compared with 72 percent nationwide. Many of these departments already have a tough time recruiting.
“To go across the state and require every firefighter — volunteer and career alike — to be trained at the same (high) level, we would have no volunteers at all,” FVTC fire instructor Bud Gadow said.
Rather than a statewide mandate, it might make more sense to strongly recommend the 120 hours, but let each fire department tailor an increase in training to meet its needs.
Fire departments provide free training for firefighters through a pool of “2 percent funds” coming from all insurance premiums underwritten in Wisconsin.
The payouts range dramatically, as you would expect. In 2009, Little Chute had $19,889 funding paid out compared with $1.03 million in Milwaukee and $143, 628 in Appleton.
If a smaller community or cluster of communities decided to increase the fire training, they could pool money to pursue a regional training effort if the 2 percent funds didn’t cover it.
Whether they’re dealing with an apartment blaze in a big city or a house fire in the country, firefighters put themselves at risk on every call. The more training they can get, the safer they — and the public — will be.