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Odessa Fire Rescue to host annual citizen fire academy

January 9, 2019

For 10 weeks this spring, Odessans have the opportunity to train like a firefighter.

The Odessa Fire Rescue is offering a citizen fire academy beginning March 5.

OFR’s 10-week program will be held every Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. with most classes at Odessa’s drill field located on south Dixie.

“Everybody is always asking what all we do and we have this program that we can show them, so it’s kind of rewarding,” OFR fire investigator Juanita Billeiter said via phone. “We can actually give them a chance to do it.”

For more than 15 years, OFR has offered this course to citizens.

Billeiter said the number of citizens during each annual set of classes varies around 20 with ages ranging from 18 to 60. The OFR fire investigator also mentioned people have taken the class multiple times.

Citizens will have a chance to receive a general overview of all the services OFR provides for the community. They will also learn how OFR responded to EMS and fire emergencies. There will be physically demands which are optional to each citizen.

“The citizens have bunkers they use, so they can feel the weight,” she said.

“We’ve had kids right out of high school to people 50 to 60 years old. There’s no set age. It’s for whoever wants to do it.”

One of those citizen fire academy participants was current Fire Marshal Michelle Cervantes. She took part of the 10-week program to get her more acquainted of the responsibilities of the OFR.

“I had just gotten hired at the fire department,” said Cervantes, who participated in the citizen fire academy about seven years ago. “I signed up for it and learned from fire suppression side to medical calls to how a fire truck works to how they have to use the Jaws of Life. They show you everything they have to do.”

Cervantes said the 10-week program is an eye-opening experience.

“You learn from their point of view on what (firefighters) have to go through on a shift,” she said.

Billeiter urges people 35 or younger who are contemplating working for the fire department to go through the citizen fire academy before committing fully.

“It means that we did something they enjoyed and they want to come back,” Billeiter said. “I like it for the younger kids, because a lot of people want to see if this is a field they want to get into before going to school for it.”

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