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Bethel Fire Department offers free firefighter certification education

The Bethel Fire Department helps potential future volunteers at Bethel Kid's Day.
Sunni Bean
The Bethel Fire Department helps potential future volunteers at Bethel Kid's Day.

The Bethel Fire Department is always looking for volunteers and recruits and ways to entice them. They have a new fire engine and training facility being barged in, and this summer they’re offering a free firefighter certification that would otherwise cost a pretty penny.

At the end of July, Bethel Fire Department is offering two comprehensive courses that give qualifications to community members interested in becoming a volunteer or joining the team.

“I know that some people that have gone through fire academies that they've had to pay for, they've paid upwards of $15,000 to attend those,” said Bethel Fire Chief Daron Solesbee. “But we're providing that all free, along with all the equipment and supplies and stuff for that. So it's a good deal, and this is a certification that does not expire.”

Solesbee took the courses 20 years ago and they are still valid. The first course gives participants a red card, the training needed to be an entry-level wildland firefighter, administered through the U.S. Department of Forestry.

“So luckily they had a slow season,” said Solesbee. “So they're able to squeeze in some training for us.”

That course is designed to train volunteers in techniques to combat wildfires. The Bethel Fire Department is tasked with combating fires in its 44 square-mile service district, which runs from about the top end of Straight Slough down to just past Crowley.

“So we do have quite a bit of service areas, not just here on the roads,” said Solesbee. “It's out in, like, different fish camps and that kind of stuff. So we do have our boat and four wheelers. So sometimes we go out and, you know, we have to coordinate with the [U.S.] Department of Forestry, [U.S. Bureau of Land Management] to try to put them out.”

The red card class will go from July 28 to July 30.

The second is a Firefighter 1 course, which provides all of the basic training to qualify as a Firefighter 1, or structural firefighter. Participants that complete the course will have the minimum training needed in order to operate safely and efficiently inside a burning structure.

“So it is quite a long course; I think there's somewhere around 300 hours involved in it,” said Solesbee. “But it's going to cover everything that's required to be a structural Firefighter 1 in the state, and you will get a national and international certification for that.”

The Firefighter 1 course starts on July 31 and runs for four-hour sessions Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with an eight-hour session on Saturdays. It goes until November.

Solesbee stressed that despite the seriousness of the lessons, the course is fun and rewarding. Participants will be learning how to use the personal protective equipment that they wear on the job.

“It's also some basic safety stuff and knowing fire behavior and chemistry. Knowing how ventilation works and how to read smoke, and also doing interior search and rescue operations where we actually search around and try to find people and pull them out. With that there's the use of ladders, ropes, and knots. You know, different things, different tools that we use for the job. Water supply. It's a lot of stuff to go over, but that's why the class is almost four months long,” Solesbee said.

It’s a lot, but there are a lot of skills that go into being a firefighter and they want volunteers to be prepared. Solesbee also reminded people at home that they can help prevent fires too.

“I just want to remind people to check their smoke alarm batteries. And also make sure that the chimneys are going to be clean. We do have chimney brushes that are, you can rent from a fire station for free,” Solesbee said.

Those interested in the free certification training can find the application on the city’s website at The fire department also encourages people to stop by the fire station with questions and to say hello.

Sunni is a reporter and radio lover. Her favorite part of the job is sitting down and having a good conversation.
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