VOLUNTEERS GIVE THEIR ALL

January 10, 2001 12:00 am
Jake Cartwright, 14, learns firefighter skills. ().
Jake Cartwright, 14, learns firefighter skills. ().

Jake Cartwright sweat profusely under 40 pounds of firefighting gear as he crawled across the floor on his hands and knees. His breathing was fast and ragged inside the oxygen mask that gripped his reddening face.

Do you see any victims! a voice yelled out.

Cartwright hesitated, disoriented. Keep going! the voice boomed.

The 14-year-old struggled to do so. He was determined to finish the test. He was a junior firefighter hoping to become a full-time career at age 18.

This is want I want to do with my life, Cartwright said later after finishing the test.

He was one of about 33 volunteer firefighters in Curry County who tested their skills at the Brookings Fire Department Saturday to meet new Oregon firefighting requirements.

The men came from Brookings, Cape Ferello, Upper Chetco and as far away as Agness.

For five hours they hoisted and climbed ladders to the rooftop, sprayed fire hoses and crawled through a room pretending to look for victims lost in make-believe smoke.

The whole goal is to get them all certified Oregon basic firefighters, said Terry Riley, regional training coordinator for the states Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. Theyre doing a super job.

The states requirements to become a basic firefighter was recently updated so it matched the national standard held by the National Fire Protection Association, Riley said.

This requires area firefighters to first qualify as Basic Firefighters, which the men tested for on Saturday. The men will then have to complete four classes to meet the national standard, he said.

The Curry Fire Chiefs Association sponsored three testing dates for north, central and south Curry County. Approximately 25 firefighters from the Port Orford area and 25 firefighters from the Gold Beach area recently completed the testing.

About 75 people in the county have finished the training, said Brookings and Curry County Fire Chief Bill Sharp. Im glad we had the turnout we had.

Brookings volunteer firefighter Evan Franks said, This is really important. Ive been looking forward to doing this to get certification and move forward.

At the end of the training session John Scherbarth, firefighter with the Agness-Illahe Volunteer Fire Protection District, emerged from his breathing apparatus hot and sweaty, but with a smile on his face.

This was a good opportunity to improve my training and get qualified, Scherbarth said.

He then gestured to nearby firefighters. Were all on the same team, trying to do the best job we can.