Cadets graduating from the Minneapolis Fire Department training program ripped apart a car Thursday, put out a fire and slid down six stories from a training tower to show friends and family what they have learned.
This is the second cadet class to graduate this year, the first time in six years that the Fire Department has been able to hire new recruits. Two more classes are anticipated next year.
“They are desperately needed because of the way we staff our rigs. They’re staffed for 24 hours,” said J.R. Klepp, deputy chief for training. “We don’t close down when we don’t have enough firefighters, so it’s important, as people retire, that we replace them with new faces.”
Mark Lakosky, president of the Minneapolis Fire Firefighters, Local 82, has said the department needs 40 additional firefighters to replace those now eligible for retirement. That would raise staffing from 385 to 435.
When funds for the 2013 training classes were being approved, Chief John Fruetel told City Council members: “We’ve got nobody under the age 30 in our Fire Department, and we’ve got many over the age of 50.”
The training program runs about four months with no guarantee of graduation.
“This class started out with 15, but we ended up graduating 10 cadets,” said Klepp, who does not think it is unusual for people to leave the training program without graduating. “It’s very intense, academically and physically, so not everybody graduates.”
Following graduation, each new firefighter is assigned to a rig and a captain for three more months of on-the-job training.
“It’s a profession where there is no replacement for experience,” said Klepp, adding that every run, every situation, becomes a learning experience. “Experience is very important.”