Local fire departments share new joint training academy

Posted at 10:37 PM, Sep 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-12 23:45:09-04

Tight budgets and limited resources are something most businesses and governments are dealing with, and that includes the fire department. But since they cannot start missing a burning building or a rescue operation, a couple suburban fire departments are coming up with a new way to operate.

This is the Joint Fire Training Academy. Breaking down walls and setting things on fire are not just encouraged, it pretty much happens everyday here. The academy includes West Allis, Wauwatosa and North Shore Fire Departments.

"As all the fire departments are dealing with more requests for service and fewer resources to provide that service we are all a bit overwhelmed. And one way we have been able to deal with that is by working more closely together," says Assistant Chief Jay Scharfenberg of the West Allis Fire Department.

The three departments have often helped each other out in the past. But as they started working together more often they realized something needed to change. Each department has their own language, their own way of doing similar things even though the ends results are often the same.

So they realized they needed to be on the same page from the beginning, which is how the joint academy started. It began with Wauwatosa and North Shore training together in 2012. Then according to West Allis, they joined in last year.

"We've changed some of our tactics to fall in line with Wauwatosa and North Shore. We have found it helps immensely in the academy and out in the field," said Lt. Steve Kaltenbrun, West Allis Fire Department.

Wauwatosa, West Allis and North Shore each send instructors to teach together.

Reporter Rebecca Klopf got to see first hand what the recruits had to deal with during the training day. She put on gear, but was luckier than the other recruits. They just had her crawl through the dark maze. It was hot and disorienting.

But the next recruit did the same thing - only blindfolded. They also first spun the recruit in circles, and shined lights at him before sending him in the maze.

"A lot of these scenarios are based on a fire fighter being lost or disorientated or being separated from his crew and he really has to pull out his self survival skills," said Lt. Steve Kaltenbrun.

The recruits graduate from the joint academy October 7th.