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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Olivehurst Fire Department internship program in the news

Interns Come to Rescue of California Fire Department

For the internship program the Olivehurst Fire Department began this month, there's a benefit for not only the firefighters in training, but for the department itself.

For the internship program the Olivehurst Fire Department began this month, there's a benefit for not only the firefighters in training, but for the department itself.
Having an extra body available for medical calls and the occasional fire is a boon for a department shrunken because of declining revenues and other reasons, said Olivehurst Fire Chief Wade Harrison.
"It gives us a level of security," Harrison said. "Also, in some situations you need someone to watch your back."
Under the program, three firefighting academy graduates are working at least four daytime shifts a month to assist the on-duty captain, doubling the size of crews available for a call.
Academy graduates must spend a year getting experience at a fire station in order to earn a firefighter certificate. Harrison said he expects the department will take on more interns in the coming months.
One of the first to intern with Olivehurst, Derek Sweet, said he is learning aspects of a firefighter's life you can't learn at an academy. "The main thing, so far, is what fire station life is like when you're not out on calls," said Sweet, 30, who lives in Auburn. "You've got to find stuff to do, keep busy, learn about all the apparatus and equipment you use."
On a practical level, interns like Sweet are the only way the department will have more than one person at the station anytime in the near future, outside of volunteers called when there is an emergency. Last year, residents in Olivehurst rejected in a mail-ballot election measure to tie an annual fire assessment to inflation.
Officials with the Olivehurst Public Utility District then had to reduce the Fire Department's funding further when a court ruled a similar fire assessment passed in Amador County in 2007 didn't have a required two-thirds vote. District counsel told directors because OPUD's assessment also passed only by a simple majority, the district could be challenged legally by letting it stay in place.
OPUD Director James Carpenter said while the internship program is too new to assess, it has the potential to be a benefit.
"The expected goal is to be a win-win for the department and the interns," he said, adding with property taxes and other revenues still down, he didn't see how the department could be restored to 24-hour status anytime soon.
Harrison said the internship program is more cost affordable than hiring firefighters because the Olivehurst department only pays for meal money and workers' compensation costs, with an annual budget of about $5,000.
As a result, even if the department had enough money to restore its lost personnel, the internship program will remain, he said.
There's also the possibility some interns could eventually work on overnight shifts.
Sweet said he is fine with the knowledge when his time with the Olivehurst department is up, he'll have to look elsewhere for a permanent job.
"I feel privileged that they gave us this opportunity," he said.
Source article: FH - Link

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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