Huntsville Fire Department celebrates the graduation of six new volunteer cadets as they receive their black helmets Tuesday. The promotions are awarded after several months of training that include the firefighters completing over 150 skills.
“Volunteers are the backbone of Huntsville Fire Department,” Lieutenant Adam Winningham said. “In order to have a strong backbone they must be trained and trained well. The majority of my personal training [began] with the intro training which was through HFD so I am a firm believer in the program.”
The introductory course is designed to ensure the men and women are appropriately trained and well equipped to begin their career in fire service.
“Our introductory to fire class that we put on is required by the state and gives you a little bit of the bread and butter of what we do, gives you a lot of exposure to different aspects of fire service operations,” Huntsville Fire Chief Greg Mathis said.
In recent years, the number of volunteer firefighters in the country has been on a steady decline. According to a National Fire Protection Association report, the number of volunteers in the United States decreased significantly from 814,850 in 2015 to 682,600.
“HFD is steadily moving forward, although the days of finding committed volunteers is significantly more challenging,” Winningham said. “We therefore cherish the new committed volunteers that much more. We cannot neglect the senior volunteers as they carry much of the load during the transition.”
Mathis believes the department is currently in a good place with high morale and has high hopes for this class as they further their career with HFD.
“I am excited about these new employees,” Mathis said. “We’ve hired some great employees that we’ve hired in this past year. I’ve been with here for 30 years and I’ve seen highs and lows. Right now, I think we’re in a high. We have volunteer firefighters that are participating, training and responding.”
Those who are interested in serving the community as a volunteer firefighter or want to start a full-time career in the fire service are encouraged to visit the fire station and attend drill nights, which are every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. One can also participate in a ride along.
“Come be seen, look at what we do, participate in drill nights, come do a ride along. We encourage that,” Mathis said. “Recruiting volunteer firefighters is becoming a bigger challenge as time goes on. So, if someone shows interest, we would encourage you to come by the fire station and meet the guys and see what we do.”
Editor’s Note: Mowery will graduate alongside five other cadets: Tracy Cullens, Diego Garcia, Patrick Reilly, Caleb Postoak and Nick Smith.