Atop a 100-foot-tall fire truck ladder, a new recruit with the Glendale Fire Department on Monday hooked his belt to the ladder, leaned back and extended both arms freely into the air as part of an exercise.
And it was only the first day of training.
"[The exercise] is a confidence builder so that you could trust the equipment and help you overcome any fear of heights," said Capt. Brian Richey, one of three instructors who are shaping a batch of 16 new recruits into the city's newest firefighters.
It's the first time in four years the fire department has trained new recruits, mainly because room for new staff only recently became available through a number of retirements, said Battalion Chief Tom Propst.
During the next 13 weeks, new recruits will be climbing many ladders and a slew of other equipment at the training site located on a Glendale public works lot near Chevy Chase Drive and San Fernando Road.
And they will be doing plenty of running and push-ups in between all that.
"They have to be quick, but they'll learn technique too," Propst said. "As we'll see today, when they do revolutions, their technique is going to be pretty poor. Over the next several weeks, they'll be refining that. Repetition is the key to success."
Also on their first day, the recruits practiced unfurling hoses dozens of feet long and rolling them back up again as well as scaling a flight of stairs inside a small four-story structure over and over again.
Propst said some recruits will do better than others in proving their physical endurance, while others will score better on exams. However, it's more about helping each other out, which will be likely and vital when they're out fighting real fires.
"The fun part is that they're learning to become a team. It's not about me, me, me; it's about we, we, we," he said. "This group is only as good as its weakest link."
The 16 recruits, who are paid employees of the fire department as they go through training, were whittled down from a pool of about 3,200 hopefuls who applied last August.
A written test narrowed that number down to 500. The final trim was made after a series of interviews and background checks, Propst said.
One of the 16 in training is a woman and if she graduates, she'll be only the fifth female firefighter Glendale has seen during the past 20 years, Propst said.
Upon successful completion of the training, each recruit will hit the ground running on their first day on the job responding to emergency calls.
"This is a very sought-after job. It's very rewarding, it's very fun and it's exciting. It's the same thing every day, but different," Propos said. "The routine is the same, but what each day presents is totally different than the day before."
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