Currently, the city of Huntsville’s fire department is searching for full-time and volunteer firefighters to fill-up their roster. Emergency management coordinator Adam Winningham breaks down the application process for volunteer firefighters, and what it takes to help carry the responsibility of public safety.
The application process begins with an aptitude exam followed by a physical test. To accommodate the applicants’ schedules both tests are held on Saturdays.
The physical agility exam includes climbing 100-foot ladders, equipment carrying, victim dragging, and more.
“Can you be scared of heights and pass?” Winningham said. “Absolutely, and we have numerous firemen that do not like the ladder part, but they can accomplish it.”
Once a pool of volunteers passes their tests, they move on to interviews to see if they meet the fire department’s needs. Selected individuals learn what it is like being a small-town firefighter.
“Everyone carries a pager that is used to notify primitive calls and we kind of give a one-on-one on how it works, when to use it, when not to use it,” Winningham said.
While studying how to be a firefighter, the volunteer will spend one or two nights a week and one or two Saturdays a month at the station.
“The volunteers get a little more freedom in the aspect of picking and choosing [shifts],” Winningham said. “They have what we call a quota that they must meet, and that is 50% of our training and 50% of our major calls.”
The fire department handles major calls like house fires, hazmat calls, and large accidents.
“It is not Hollywood,” Winningham said.“We do not drag people out of houses very often, if at all, thankfully, and that is a good thing.”
While discussing the best parts of being a firefighter, Winningham shared the hard aspects of the job as well.
“To say that we are not emotional about it is completely false,” Winningham said. “We have a job to do. We try to be professional and put on our professional hat and do the absolute very best we can.”
Winningham pushed home the need currently for volunteers at the fire station to help make those calls go easier.
“We need them and they play a huge role in this community, and unfortunately, we are seeing a dying culture in reference to volunteering,” Winningham said. “People just are not looking to volunteer like they were 10 or 20 years ago. So, if you are absolutely interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter, I would love to talk to you, love to show you the steps, and walk you through the process.”