Fire Chief Tim Guffey wants residents to know his firefighters aren’t just passing time when they’re not putting out fires.
It’s part of the reason the department will hold its first Citizens Fire Academy starting April 15.
“Some people can envision the old fire department where ... firefighters are sitting around playing checkers or watching TV until something happens,” he said. “In 2014, that’s not the fire service anymore. The fire service is out and its proactive and we’re preventing things.”
The Citizens Fire Academy takes after other academies town departments offer. The police and planning departments both operate citizens academies that teach participants the inner-workings of the town.
For the Fire Academy, Guffey said the emphasis will be on what firefighters do when there isn’t a fire to respond to. That includes prevention and education programs, code enforcement and maintaining equipment.
“I think (participants) will be surprised with the amount of time that we spend doing our day-to-day tasks and how much it does take,” Guffey said. “Our people work 24-hour shifts and for most of that shift, they’re doing something.”
In addition to responding to calls, Knightdale’s fire department educates the town on child passenger safety, fire prevention and juvenile fire-setters. The latter includes a special program for children to teach them the potential negative outcomes of playing with fire.
Each of those responsibilities will be among the topics covered in the academy.
But Guffey knows what people really want to see: They want to see a fire.
On the last night of the academy, scheduled for May 13, participants will have a chance – under the close supervision of town firefighters – to put out a real fire.
“They’re going to be a far distance from the fire, the heat and the smoke so they can see what it does (and) they can get the experience without actually getting into a situation that may be a little more (intense),” Guffey said.
In addition to putting out a fire, participants will have opportunities to work with the gear firefighters work with and will also get a chance to participate in a mock fire investigation.
The academy will meet on Tuesday nights from April 15 to May 13. Interested residents who are over 18 have to apply to participate and can get an application online at knightdalenc.gov or in person at the Knightdale Public Safety Building at 979 Steeple Square Court.
There is room for 12 participants and at the time of press, there were six open slots. Applications are due by April 3.