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ANSWERING THE CALL 14 VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS FINISH HANDS-ON TRAINING.

Byline: Greg Botonis Staff Writer

LANCASTER - Fourteen men completed their final day of training Saturday to become Los Angeles County's newest volunteer firefighters who will be assigned to fire stations throughout the Antelope Valley.

As part of their final day of training, the men fought their first ``live'' fire as their instructors watched at the North Los Angeles County Training Center at Fire Station 129 in Lancaster.

``Many of these guys are just interested in giving back to the community but doing it in a way with a little more excitement,'' said Fire Capt. Joel Harrison, who is in charge of the volunteers. ``Others are looking at the department as a career or are working on becoming paramedics.''

The fire academy is held once a year and consists of eight full days of instruction that range from classroom training to hands-on exercises like Saturday's fire scenarios.

Volunteers are assigned mostly to stations outside the city areas including Pearblossom, Lake Los Angeles, Leona Valley, Lake Hughes, Green Valley and Quartz Hill.

Some will work eight-hour shifts, but most will be summoned to emergencies by pagers. In Fire Department lingo, volunteers are known as ``call'' firefighters.

In most instances, they have their own engine and respond to assist full-time firefighters.

But in other cases, such as the Leona Valley fire station, the volunteers are the first responders - usually arriving on the scene several minutes before a regular unit can get there.

``For some of these communities, these are their first responders so they are an essential part of the department,'' Harrison said.

More than 100 call firefighters currently staff stations in the Antelope Valley, Malibu and Catalina.

The new volunteers will undergo continual training at their assigned stations as part of their commitment, and they also will be trained annually at the Lancaster training center - to learn how to drive a fire engine and how to supervise a fire team.

Other specialty training will be provided as it becomes available including terrorist situations and training for new equipment.

Some of the volunteers had previously been involved in the Fire Department's Explorer program or had some other involvement with the department.

All will be trained as emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, as their training progresses.

The volunteers were all given certificates to commemorate the completion of their training and their new commitment to the county Fire Department.

On Saturday, each got to try his hand at fighting a live fire inside a darkened, closed-off building filled with smoke.

The academy is held annually for participants who meet specific health and background requirements.

For members of the public who want to learn more about the academy, Harrison suggested that they check with a local fire station or go online to www.lacofd.org.

Greg Botonis, (661) 267-7802

gregory.botonis(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) Volunteer firefighters train, above, in a live-fire exercise, after which they are critiqued by Capt. Mike Lewis, below.

(3) Volunteer firefighters in training watch a fire demonstration Saturday at the North Los Angeles County Training Center.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 20, 2005
Words:516
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