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Fire Department recruits pass 24-hour test to earn posts
Four new ECFD Firefighters
Vamulyan Dukuly (from left), Colton Daniel, Christian Catanese and Clem Schimikowski sport their ECFR shirts after completing the 24-hour testing session July 14. (Submitted photos.)

Special to the Herald

SPRINGFIELD – Four Effingham County Fire Rescue (ECFR) recruits quenched their burning desire to become a firefighter.

Vamuyan Dukuly, Colton Daniel, Christian Catanese, and Clem Schimikowski were put through their paces July 13-14 at the Training Center on Public Safety Boulevard in Guyton. ECFR instructors scrutinized every move the recruits made during a variety of physically and mentally challenging scenarios.

“We call it a 24-hour evolution,” said Ben Pape, training captain, said Thursday. “Basically, it is the proving ground and culmination point of everything that they have learned and been taught over the last 16 weeks.”

Pape said the recruits, who started tackling Thursday’s challenges at 7 a.m., received 400 hours of classroom training and 800 hours in the field.

“There is no instruction today like you would have when we are teaching them the job,” Pape said. “They are showing us that they have retained the information and that they are capable of doing the job.”

The current class of recruits started with six members.

Firefighter carrying water hose upstairs
With an instructor watching, Vamuyan Dukuly lugs a firehose up a flight of stairs in a building at the ECFR Training Center on July 13.
“The likelihood of success for the ones who made it this far is pretty high,” Pape said. “As long as they make it through tonight and they show us in the morning that they have completed everything with 100-percent accuracy, they will have a gray shirt issued to them in the morning and they will be part of the team. They are earning their spot all the way up until seven o’clock (Friday) morning.”

Dukuly, Daniel, Catanese and Schimikowski passed every test. They wrapped up the “evolution” with a short run and the traditional burning of their green recruit shirts. Then they were handed a gray ECFR shirt while receiving heartfelt handshakes and slaps on the back from their new teammates.

The first 10 weeks of recruit school focuses on NPQ Firefighter I certification and hazardous material operations and awareness. After Week 10, the recruits are taught “the street tactics and how ECFR functions," Pape said.

“… So, when they go to the street and they are handed to these shift captains and lieutenants, they are not a product that has to be fine-tuned as much,” Pape said. “They have a turn-key product that they know can get on that fire truck, come off full lines, fight fire and do the job.”

Fire suppression, search-and-rescue, vehicle extrication, CPR, and first aid are rigorously covered in the final days of instruction.

“Most of these guys will probably go home (Friday morning) and not have their eyes open until sometime Saturday,” Pape said. “It’s pretty hard. It’s probably one of the most arduous things that they go through except ‘Burn Week’ and ‘Search Week.’

“‘Burn Week’ and ‘Search Week’ are usually the other two hardest parts of this class because it’s five days straight, 10 hours a day of live-fire attack and search-and-rescue and victim removal,” Pape explained.

The successful recruits from the current class will participate in a graduation ceremony July 20 at ECFR headquarters.

A new recruit class is set to start Aug. 12. Call 912-754-8888 for more information.