If you were driving through Milwaukee and noticed an active fire on Wednesday it may not have been what you thought: It was a training area for future firefighters to hone their skills.
After 16-weeks of intense training, 24 Milwaukee Fire Department recruits are facing what we might consider a final exam, attacking a real burn, set ablaze, on purpose.
Captain Andrew Timm from the Milwaukee Fire Department Training Academy said such lessons offer something no classroom ever could.
“It’s the experience of going into the unknown. When they go into this structure it’s much different," he said.
It might seem a bit extreme, but when you think about what they may face one day, practice could translate to survival, according to Milwaukee Fire Department Lead Instructor Lt. Charles Zielke.
“It’s important to get them an idea of what it’s like in the field as far as how the building reacts," he said.
One may wonder why anyone would ever put themselves in such a situation on purpose. The response, to a person, was they were answering an inner calling and living a dream.
Trayvon Rosemond is one of the younger recruits who attended the cadet program. He’s had a drive to pursue this since childhood.
“I used to live by the fire academy, so I often hear the recruits their little jog in the morning and chant and sing off the cadences, and I thought oh that’s really cool, I want to do that for a living.”
In the meantime, one of the older incoming recruits, Nathan Rebholz, can’t hide his joy with what appears to be a permanent smile on his face. That happiness has translated to his family.
“My little boys, it didn’t take long for them to say I want to be a firefighter, like daddy, and I think that’s the biggest reward,” he said proudly.
This particular group is a unique, if not a bit odd combination of gen Xers and Millennials, but they've managed to come together as a kind of family.
They’ve been learning and depending on each other in a relationship that may one day be the difference between life and death.