Written by Elizabeth Casolo, GHS Class of 2021
On Monday, at Greenwich Fire Department’s Training Center on North Street, five probationary firefighters worked toward their bailout certification, a milestone in their training process.
To become a firefighter in Greenwich, recruits must undergo the Candidate Physical Agility Test (CPAT), a competitive hiring process with testing and a psychological evaluation, 17 weeks at the Connecticut Fire Academy in Windsor Locks and seven weeks at the Greenwich training facility. Although probationary firefighters review the bailout process at the Connecticut Fire Academy, the certification in Greenwich allows them to become comfortable with the equipment they will use once working full time.
The bailout certification requires each member of this year’s class—Ryan Crook, Tim Lewis, Joseph Battinelli, Jennifer Osher and Scott Lanahan—to complete six jumps from a Training Center window. According to Fire Chief Joseph McHugh, this training should only be applied as “a last resort.”
According to Ms. Osher, the dangerous aspects of the profession drew her and her colleagues to the job.
On Monday, not only was it a very hot, but the firefighters typically carry at least 30 lbs of equipment.
Recruits with experience as volunteer firefighters in Greenwich have a slight advantage during the application process, but many applicants are from outside of the area. Osher is originally from Tennessee, and Mr. Lanahan is from New Jersey.
Chief McHugh said during each testing cycle, the fire department leverages social media to publicize new job opportunities to attract a variety of prospects.
“My father was a volunteer fireman,” Lanahan said. Despite always having known his career aspiration, Lanahan was drawn toward working in Greenwich. “It’s a gorgeous area,” he said.
Over the years, the Greenwich Fire Department has attracted those with a history in similar disciplines, leading to a robust slate of applicants. Chief McHugh said there were roughly 500 applicants this year alone.
Despite the constancy of the hiring process, the pandemic has affected the training for this year’s class. The first four to five weeks of the recruits’ training was on Zoom. During this time, the new probationary firefighters were not on active duty. By serving on active duty, the recruits gain more exposure to potentially dangerous situations and become familiar with the town.
Assistant Fire Chief Brian Koczak said that during their time at the Academy, the recruits all attended services for a fallen firefighter in New Haven.
“The school brought them all down there for the funeral so they could all be part of that family,” he said. “There were thousands of us there. It was humbling and important for them to see that.”
Koczak said that while the probationary firefighters were all together for the haz-mat training and jumping out the window of the fire dept building, they are also on active duty and going out on calls.
“Today they are all together for the certification process, but most of the time they are spread out on fire apparatus, riding out,” Koczak said. “The lieutenant is assigned to go over the district, the equipment on board, operations and the S.O.P. They’re getting all that exposure to that at the same time that they’re going out to calls.”
During the probationary period the work days is 8 hours, but the career firefighters workweek averages 42 hours. “It’s 24 hours on, 72 hours off. It’s rotating,” Koczak said, adding that if there is time during the 24 hour shift, the firefighters sleep at the fire dept headquarters.
Chief McHugh said having five probationary firefighters was unique. The number of recruits each year depends on the previous year’s retirement count. Over the past few years there have typically been just two or three vacancies a year.
According to Assistant Fire Chief Koczak, there are 107 total members of the Greenwich Fire Department’s crew. Of those 107, three are women.
Osher said she was excited to join the firefighters’ ranks and was inspired by the other women’s enduring commitment to their duties.
Lanahan said the job was a good opportunity to meet a lot of people. The other firefighters shared that sentiment and emphasized how lifelong bonds are formed through the Greenwich Fire Department.
Assistant Fire Chief Koczak said instructors at the Connecticut Fire Academy had complimented this group of probationary firefighters specifically.
With recruits coming in five days a week and firefighters working 24-hour shifts, the Greenwich Fire Department dedicates itself to serving the town and equipping the next generation of firefighters with the tools to do the same.