Into the Flames: A look inside Greenville Fire/Rescue training

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Greenville Fire/Rescue Department has experienced backlash after a The East Carolinian article this summer stated the department was not conducting the correct training and was neglecting tools to help them fight fires.

Emily Gibbs decided to step into the boots of a Greenville firefighter and learn just what each person goes through before earning their title.

When we think of firefighters, most look at them in awe of their bravery – battling through flames, risking their lives, but it’s not just bravery. It is countless hours of training, long work days, sometimes followed by backlash from the community.

Behind every Greenville firefighter, there’s passion, which keeps each one of them working their hardest to keep our city safe.

Pull on the boots and then the turn out gear. Now run towards the flames. This is the job of a firefighter.

“It’s a great organization. It’s a great career,” said fire chief Eric Griffin. “It gives you an opportunity to be able to come to work and leave with a satisfying feeling that you helped somebody else in your community.”

“All that I can say right now is that I love my job,” said firefighter Caleb Beyer. “And my job that I had before I didn’t. So right now, I’m good with going as far as I can go. And seeing where it takes me.”

But recently the job they love so much has come under fire as Greenville Fire/Rescue and Pitt Community College’s fire academy has faced heavy criticism.

“You know, people were saying we’re not trained; we’re not this,” said Griffin. “But I asked some people how many buildings in Greenville are still burning?”

Inspections done by the North Carolina State Fire Marshal show both the fire department and P.C.C. do not have any issues.

So alongside the documents, I decided to find out just what the training process is like for the 148 people we call Greenville’s “heroes”.

“We are required to do a minimum of 24 hours of EMS training a year and 36 hours of fire training a year per person,” said Griffin. “Last year we did a little bit over 44,000 hours throughout the whole department. That’s somewhere probably over 200 hours of training per person.”

44,000 hours worth of EMS and fire training were logged. Each employee must be certified in both fields. For many of them, like Caleb Beyer, training begins at Pitt Community College’s fire academy.

“We’d have classroom time; typically every course would be a certain amount of book work,” said Beyer. “And then once we got that out of the way, you would go out to the training tower. When you come on shift, the guys you work with really help you understand what happens in real life and how to take what you learn in the book and actually use it and apply it.”

Once hired, each employee goes through extensive training for the 8 A.M. to 8 A.M., 24-hour shift.

“We really take the safety of our personnel to the utmost highest,” said Chief Griffin. “So we want to make sure they have everything possible to make sure they are successful on day one. So before you can go and spray water on a fire, we want you to know what fire is really made up of. So that way it will help you to understand how to thoroughly do it in case that particular technique doesn’t work.”

From physical training to live fire training, after they master the basics they need to fight fires, teamwork comes next.

“I would describe it more as an atmosphere of comradery,” said Beyer. “We think of it as a brotherhood, or as a family. It’s not really a one person does everything. Its let’s all get what needs to be done, done together.”

With training, firefighters have to get used to wearing all of this gear including carrying tools to get them through the fire –the gear weighing about forty pounds. That is a lot of weight to carry through a burning house.

This is why they take their recruitment process so seriously.

“Relate it back to the type of people that we hire,” said Chief Griffin. “Those people come in with that attitude of whatever it takes. And the safest manner it takes, we’re going to dissolve the emergency. We never leave an emergency unresolved.”

When the day comes to an end, each Greenville firefighter has a reason behind why they keep working as hard as they do.

“You ask any fireman or EMT why they do what they do,” said Beyer. “Well I wanted to help people, but then every Now and then, you get that one person who you really made a difference for them and they really showed appreciation for it.”

The appreciation has been shown, in surveys which the fire department takes to heart.

“And as you know, last year the citizens throughout the city of Greenville rated the fire department, fire and EMS department, said Griffin as an 88 percent satisfaction rate. That was the highest ranking of any department in the city. We’re proud of that.”

If you are interested in checking out details from the survey results, please click here. The surveys were compiled at the end of 2016. Input comes from all six fire stations within the city. The next survey will include a seventh station, which is on its way and will be located on Firetower Road

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