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Large Class of Fire Service Recruits Now in Training

Aug. 28, 2007 — Ten St. Croix fire-service recruits and 21 St. Thomas/St. John recruits recently began a rigorous four-month training program, at the end of which the V.I. Fire Service will receive a major boost in manpower.
“They begin with P.T. (physical training) from seven to eight in the morning,” said Steve Brow, the St. Croix fire chief. “After that, they have class from 9 to 3:30 every day. Then they have a half an hour to clean up the area they utilize.”
Territory wide, he said, there are 102 fire-suppression officers, seven members in the arson investigation unit and a total of eight administrative personnel. So another 31 fire-suppression officers is a large increase. However, Brow said many vacancies are the result of officers retiring, being promoted or moving to different work, so the new members do not mean as large an increase in manpower as the numbers might suggest.
On St Croix, the classes are being held at the Lionel A. Jackson Memorial Armory in Estate Bethlehem. Training classes are not held every year, but only when the Fire Service is adding personnel, said Victor Browne, director of Fire Services.
“This process only comes around when we have recruits,” Browne said. “First they go through the normal government hiring process. Once they are passed by (the Division of) Personnel, we test them at Fire Services. They take an agility test and we interview them. Once they pass all that, we select and recruit based on our vacancies.”
Gov. John deJongh Jr. and Personnel have processed the notice of personnel action (NOPA) required for hiring in “record time,” Browne said, for which he is grateful.
On St. Croix, Browne said he believed the last training class took place at St. Croix Educational Complex. But that location cannot be used during the school year, he said.
“The ideal scenario would be for us to have our own training facility, of course,” Browne said. “We are grateful to the National Guard for the use of the space. We owe a special thanks to Adjutant General Renaldo Rivera for letting us utilize the armory.”
This week Austin Armstrong is teaching ladder use and ladder safety, including when and how to set them up properly, Browne said. Last week, he said, Sgt. Clifford Joseph gave instruction on personal protective gear, including boots, helmets, self-contained breathing apparatus and bunker pants, the bulky, fire-retardant canvas overpants.
“They will be trained first in basic firefighting,” he said. “Then they will spend three weeks training at St. Croix Rescue to qualify as medical first responders.”
The program was scheduled to run 16 weeks, Browne said, and he anticipates the trainees will graduate in November and join the ranks of the territory’s firefighters by December.
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