Firefighters begin training

Most of the new South Kitsap Fire and Rescue firefighters — technically candidates — were training this week at the Kitsap Readiness Center in Bremerton under the watchful eye of Battalion Chief Eric Quitslund.

“I’m observing them to assess their different training and skill levels,” Quitslund said, explaining that although each of the eight new candidates hired after the successful levy passage next month is a certified firefighter, each district has its own procedures and equipment.

“We’ve found that often they’re trained on different brands of breathing apparatuses, or sometimes they know different ladder commands,” he said.

On Thursday, Quitslund watched as SKFR lieutenants took seven candidates through a “live-fire” drill, and explained that he wasn’t just evaluating their fire skills, but their personalities, as well.

“Since they will be spending so much time together, we try and figure out who will make a compatible mix,” he said, explaining that interacting with the recruits helps him determine who might work well with each other, and also who might work best with certain supervisors.

For instance, Quitslund said the candidates with the most training might be best paired with the supervisors who have heavier workloads, while the candidates with less training might be better served with supervisors who have a keener interest in teaching.

So far, Quitslund said SKFR has filled eight of the nine new positions the levy made possible, and the last position will be filled with a firefighter/paramedic.

The current list of candidates, which includes two women, are: Ryan Auston, from Anacortes; Cody Baker, from Bothell; Reagen Benedetti, from Seattle; Jordan Bradbury, from Olympia; Andrew Charvet, from Kent; Mark Cox, from Ellensburg; Natalie Fell, from North Bend, and Ryan Montero, from Kent.

“What’s most impressed me about this group is that all of them have a degree of some sort, either a two-year or four-year,” Quitslund said. “That reflects the fact that firefighting is becoming more and more technical.”

Other than the drills at the center this week, Quitslund said the candidates have also been tken to meet many of the people they will be working with on a regular basis, such as staff members at the local hospitals and the Central Communications dispatch center.

After the training is completed and the candidates are acclimated with the district, Quitslund said he expects them to be staffing their designated station in Bethel, No. 11, in March.

But they will still be considered to be on “probation” for a year, keeping the green stripes on their helmets designating them as in training during this time.

“It’s a significant rite of passage for them when they get to take those off,” Quitslund said.

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