Largest firefighter recruit class in history now underway

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By Carol A. Clark

The current class of 34 recruits marks the largest ever assembled by the Los Alamos Fire Department in its 19-year history since joining the county.

Battalion Chief Edward Henry Ortiz heads up the LAFD training division responsible for molding the men and women recruits into top-notch firefighters.

“We’ve got a great group ranging in age from late teens to early 40s,” Ortiz said. “The majority are from New Mexico whereas last year we had about a 50-50 mix of recruits from New Mexico and those from out of state.”

This year, the LAFD has enhanced the physical fitness aspect of its training program to include an aerobic element. Mike Hopwood from Los Alamos National Laboratory trains the recruits three times a week.

“Mike’s program is very impressive and really adds to the strength training we give the recruits,” Ortiz said.

Another first for this class is the fact that they are training at the new White Rock Fire Station. That location was selected because of its large classroom, Ortiz said.

Another benefit of holding the class at the larger station, he said, is that the operations personnel there have shared their expertise with the recruits.

The class began Aug. 11 and as is typical in every class, Ortiz said, several members had to drop out for personal reasons.

There are 27 males and two females set to graduate from the program when it concludes on Dec. 20.

Ortiz has been a firefighter with the LAFD for 17 years. He took over management of the training program in July 2006. Lt. Larry Romero and Senior Office Specialist Yvette Vigil assist him in the training division.

The mission of the LAFD’s Training Division is to provide personnel with the highest level of training and education to ensure the safety, preparedness, effectiveness, and career development of all students while meeting all contractual, state, federal and local mandates.

The LAFD Training Division provides for and maintains the department’s preparedness for incident management, fire suppression and investigations, wildland and urban interface fire fighting, emergency medical services, hazardous materials response, high angle and confined space rescue, incident reporting and computer training, and other emergency and non-emergency services that occur in our service delivery area.

Fire suppression training is developed and implemented using NFPA, IFSTA, Los Alamos Fire Department Training Academy, and New Mexico Firefighters Training Academy curriculum as guidelines.

The Department provides fire service, instructional and methodology training.

The staff coordinates centralized and decentralized performance-based training, drills, evolutions, and exercises. Recruits also are trained in Hazardous Materials, First Responder Operations Training utilizing official standards from OSHA and the California Specialized Training Institute curriculum as a guideline.

The recruits’ rescue related training includes rope/confined space rescue, building collapse rescue, auto extrication, and heavy rescue, swift water rescue, which is developed using standard curriculum, IFSTA, OSHA legislation, NFPA Standards, CMC, and ROCO Rescue Inc., Rescue 3 International, and the New Mexico Firefighters Training Academy guidelines.

Training programs have been developed to address major training elements necessary for a multi-disciplined response. The Department’s goal is to train all members in every aspect of response.