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Sandy Fire accepts 15 new volunteer recruits

After tests and interviews, new recruits will get to rest for Christmas; academy starts in January


For the past month and a half, applicants looking to volunteer for the Sandy Fire District have gone through a rigorous process of background checks, written aptitude exams, physical agility tests and interviews. They’re ready to find out whether they got in and will rest up until their first steps into the academy in January.

Every year, after the pass or fail written and physical portions, the remaining recruits go through interviews during the first weeks of December. This year, 15 recruits were interviewed, and Sandy Fire accepted all 15. Their names were unavailable by press time.

The new recruits will get to take Christmas off with their families, and then the hard work begins. All recruits are required to attend a meet and greet in early January with their significant others. The next day, orientation and training begin.

This will be the sixth academy for Capt. Jason McKinnon, who was hired as training officer in 2009. The Sandy academy is pretty extensive, McKinnon said. He lets recruits know that the first year is always the toughest. In fact, McKinnon reported the fire district often loses volunteers after the first year when they remember what having free time was like.

To make sure Sandy Fire is up front about the commitment from the start, the district’s website lists what is expected of a first-year recruit.

The fire and EMS training amounts to a full year. The fire program includes just under 200 hours of training from January to July. Thursdays are lecture nights, amounting to 26 three-hour classes. Recruits also must attend the practical, hands-on portion, which runs for 12 Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are also two full weekends for hazmat and wildlife training.

Graduation from the fire program occurs the last Thursday of June, after which the recruits get a two-month break, then start the EMS program, which follows a similar schedule.

This year’s recruits come from all over, some within the district and some from outside. One recruit lives in Lake Oswego but has worked as a volunteer firefighter in the United Kingdom. Although most of the recruits are 19-20 years old, some have more experience and will get to help with the teaching portions, McKinnon said.

For McKinnon, the part that can be the most fun is watching the bond that forms between recruits, and the camaraderie.

“These recruits are going from not knowing anyone to relying on others,” McKinnon said. “It can really make or break the group. If they’re more isolated, they’re not going to go as far. Every year has their own bond.”