By 7:40 a.m., two recruits already had been taken aside to work out on an exercise bicycle and rowing machine because they could not keep up with the physically demanding exercises their drill instructors had ordered them to do.
It's only the second day of the Fort Wayne Fire Department's 88th recruit class and the 17 recruits are hitting the floor running — literally — as they run up and down the stairs and throughout the Public Safety Academy. They also do all kinds of stretching, squat-thrusts and push-ups.
For the next 18 weeks, these recruits will endure physical training (PT), emergency medical training (EMT) and valuable fire-fighting skills in their quest to join the department.
PT exercises are an important facet to being a firefighter. "It correlates to movements on the job," District Chief of Training Travis Hostler said. "They will use this program the rest of their life."
Of course, they'll have book work and tests during the first six weeks as they become state-certified EMTs. After that, recruits will get 12 weeks of hands-on training to become vehicle and machinery extrication technicians, learn the law of how things burn, how fire travels, finding hidden fires and how to secure the scene after a fire for the fire investigator.
Recruits will use equipment at the department's old academy on Dwenger Avenue, use houses the city purchases in blighted areas and travel to Auburn for another training program.
"Every minute is scheduled," FWFD Deputy Chief Adam O'Connor said.
The recruits had to go through a series of tests, both physically and mentally, including a written aptitude test, an oral interview, physical ability, a physical from a doctor and a psychiatric exam prior to their acceptance into the academy.
The vetting process is tough but necessary. "We will lose people, but it's necessary," O'Connor said. "It's essential to know you can keep going."
Hostler said the physical ability test is a pass-fail standardized test used throughout the country and in Canada, resulting in recruits entering the academy at differing physical levels.
Hostler said even with the differences, it's easier for a recruit to catch up on physical training than with their book work. Covering three chapters a day with quizzes and tests can be just as demanding on the recruits.
Ten of the firefighters will be funded by a $1.4 million federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant intended to help increase the number of trained, front-line firefighters. The grant will cover salaries and benefits for the 10 firefighters for two years, after which they will become part of the city budget. The remaining new firefighters will be part of the city's 2016 budget. Currently, there are 343 fire personnel.
The fire department also plans to hold another recruit academy this summer. O'Connor said application details were not available at this time.