Training heats up for Tampa's firefighter hopefuls

- It was out of the frying pan and into the fire for over a dozen Tampa Fire Rescue recruits. They wrapped their six-week training session Friday morning with a live burning exercise.

Recruits suited up to navigate the structure in pairs, and Gabriel Santos was one of the first ones to go in.

"A big thing in fire is ‘two in, two out,’" Santos said. "You always want to have one person with you, so you have good communication and don't get lost inside of a structure."

The goal was to put out the fire on the first level, and search and rescue on the second. Before reaching this point, recruits face many other challenges. Captain Mitch Spradlin says they've had to close the door on many applicants.

"They have a background check, a polygraph that they have to pass, there's drug testing involved," Captain Spradlin said. "There is also a psych evaluation they have to do. With those components, we get a lot of applicants, but some of them fail the components so that's where we're meeting those challenges."

Once accepted, recruits face three to six months of EMT school, followed by three to six months in the fire academy. The process can take up to a year, but the camaraderie, Spradlin says, makes the rigorous training worth it.

"We spend a third of our life together," Captain Spradlin said. "You do establish that family, that camaraderie, that brotherhood. There's no other occupation like it."

Tampa Fire Rescue plans to hire 50 firefighters over the next year. They say you must be at least 18 years of age, possess a current Florida firefighter certification and Florida EMT or paramedic certification.

If you’re interested in applying, go to www.tampagov.net/jobs and click on ‘Firefighter.’

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