Families get up-close preview of firefighter training

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A group of men hoping to become Clearwater firefighters had their skills put to the test on Tuesday at Station 48 in Clearwater.

For the first time, families of new recruits got to watch their loved ones undergo training, seeing first-hand what it takes to battle fires for a living. It was a familiar sight for Shawn Tellone, who observed his son, Jordan Tellone as he put out a raging car fire.

"I was a firefighter-paramedic for 26 and a half years," said Shawn Tellone, who retired from the Clearwater Fire Department.

His son said he grew up watching his father and his fellow firefighters interacting at the fire house, so going into firefighter seemed natural to him.

"I'm so honored to be hired at the same station my dad was working at," said Jordan Tellone.

Tellone is one of 12 firefighter recruits completing week five of a nine week training program before hitting the streets. During Tuesday's exercise, recruits teamed up in groups of three to put out multiple car fires set by experienced firefighters. The vehicles were packed with hay and wood to make the blaze a bit more challenging. Veteran firefighters say with each new class of recruits, the work of firefighting changes.

"In vehicles now, the seats, the dashboards, everything is made out of synthetic materials now that burn a lot faster. they burn a lot harder," said Lt. John Klinefelter with Clearwater Fire.

Aside for the challenges of putting out fires, Tellone said experience has taught him that a personal challenge for many firefighters is the amount of time spent away from their families.

"A lot of people don't realize that a third of your life you're away for your family. There's a lot of times you're working holidays, weekends,or family's birthdays. It seemed like whenever the kids needed stitches, I was always on duty instead of being home with them," said Tellone.

Fire officials said the goal of Tuesday's open training was to give families a better understanding of why their loved ones make the sacrifice.

"We invited families out and friends out to come out and see what we do, see how hard they've been working, and see their hard work pay off for them," said Lt. Klinefelter.

In addition to firefighter training, each recruit had to receive EMS training prior. The group of recruits is expected to take on their new role as firefighters in about four weeks.