WATSONVILLE—Nine trainees with hopes of becoming new firefighters or paramedics in Santa Cruz County are three months into the 16-week fire academy.
Six of them are aiming to join the Santa Cruz Fire Department, one plans to go to Central Fire District and two hope to join Watsonville Fire Department, said WFD Capt. Matt McCollum.
They started on Feb. 7 and have thus far completed hazardous material training and structure response.
Last week the crew, under the guidance of three fire captains and several firefighters, took turns learning how to battle wildland fires using a 500-foot hose in a drill on the edge of Struve Slough.
Each of them comes on board as a fully trained paramedic.
Trainee David Preston, who is from Sacramento and lives in Monterey, said the academy has “been a lot of fun and a lot of work.”
“They’re really good instructors here and it’s a good, supportive group in training,” he said. “I like that we are meeting and learning from officials from various departments around the county; it’s important to know and work together, especially when we have to team up on a huge incident. These are some of the best friends I’ve ever made.”
Kayla Ray, a firefighter from Central Fire, said she was happy to lend a hand in training the new crew.
“The academy is a great place to brush up on my skills and to share what I have learned,” Ray said.
McCollum said the academy will wrap up May 26 and, if everyone passes, the crew will be in their new uniforms the next day.