Milwaukee Fire Dept. recruits participate in "final burn"

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Fire Department will soon have more members to fight fires, as the latest recruit class is in the process of completing its final evaluation.

Recruit class 10-31-11 participated in their "final burn," or in other words, their final examination before they graduate from the Milwaukee Fire Department's Training Academy. During the final burn, recruits put all their studies and training into battling a real house fire, getting them ready for what's to come. "This really gives them a taste of what firefighting is truly about. We just take this opportunity to kind of test their skills, and make sure they've retained everything we've taught them over the last 13 weeks," Lt. John Schwengel, lead instructor of the Milwaukee Training Academy said.

The 30 MFD recruits with an average age of 30, came to the training with different skill levels, and for different reasons. Recruit Travis McCullough chose firefighting because he says he needs an active job. "Personally, I can't sit behind a desk. I need an active job that keeps me busy and keeps me going, gets my fingers dirty. Running into a burning building, saving somebody's life seemed like a good idea," McCullough said.

McCullough and the other recruits will spend two days on their final burn - first, putting out a fire on the first floor, and then tackling the second floor. They'll get practice laying out hoses, using ladders, ventilating the house through the roof, and engaging in search and rescue, preparing them to begin their new jobs in February. "They walk through the door at 0800 and their feet are on the street. They're 25 percent of that firefighting engine company or truck company. They have to be fully trained and ready to go, and this helps them prepare to do that," Lt. Schwengel said.

McCullough says it wasn't easy getting to this point, but it was worth it. "The physical part of the training will kick your butt. It's definitely a lot of hard work, and the academics are very strenuous. It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life, besides the military," McCullough said.

The recruits will graduate from the program February 2nd, and will hit the streets February 6th.