Police & Fire

Chatham Probationary Firefighters Will Really Feel the Heat at New Facility

Credits: Chatham Borough Fire Dept.
Blindfold drill Credits: Chatham Borough Fire Dept.
Credits: Ashley Bouwense
Credits: Ashley Bouwense

PARSIPPANY, NJ— The Morris County Public Safety Training Academy’s “Class A” Live Burn Building, a structure that produces flame and smoke conditions of an actual fire, will be fully functional this November.

“The level of instruction is second to none,” Chatham Borough Fire Department’s deputy fire marshal and fire coordinator, Stephen Williams, said, “and the residents are the beneficiaries of the training.” 

The Chatham Borough Fire Department has sent its probationary firefighters to the Academy since 1975, and Fire Chief, Doug Allan, said Chatham Borough has a great relationship with the Academy.

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“The Academy is excellent," Allan said. "The instructors are visionaries; they progress the programs so the training is never stagnant.” 

Two Fire 1 students from Chatham Borough are training currently at the Academy, and four more probationary firefighters will be sent to train directly after the new year. 

Fire Training Coordinator Louis Pepe notes that the "Class A" building is another excellent addition to the Academy’s evolutionary process.

“The ‘Class A’ Building mimics the actual conditions a firefighter may incur in a fire,” Pepe explained. “The recruits really feel the heat and the smoke.”

This addition will play an important role for Fire 2 recruits. The 2,000 square-foot building burns hay and wood, which gives-off real fire and smoke conditions. There are three burn rooms within the building, where instructors can simulate multiple scenarios, such as a basement fire or bedroom fire.

The Academy was established in 1971, and has continually added to its facilities over the years. 

“Chief Pepe has done a great job of expanding upon the fire academy’s training programs,” Academy instructor and Chatham resident Ken Jenks said.

Jenks has worked at the Academy since June 2014, and explained how the Academy has made numerous improvements since the short time he has worked there:

“We switched to the Pro Board firefighting training curriculum earlier this year; we’ve hired additional instructors to meet increased training demands; we’ve acquired a ladder truck that was donated by a fire department in Maryland that we use to train recruits on ladder company operations; and we will have the ‘Class A’ Live Burn Building later this fall.”

Jenks, Pepe, and the rest of the instructors appreciate the Morris County leaders and freeholders who make these improvements possible. The Academy also has created a resident assistance (RA) program, funded by a Montclair State University grant. Local college RA’s come to the training grounds for a day of basic fire training.

“We put them through common fire situations to make them knowledgeable,” Pepe said. 

The college students are taught basic fire anatomy in the classroom, and then are sent out to the training facilities, where they get to see examples of dorm-room burn, and learn how to put the fires out. Pepe added, “Students get to see how quickly a waste paper basket fire burns, and then they get to put it out.” 

Fairleigh Dickinson students from the Madison campus were the first to go through training, and the Academy hopes more local fire departments will arrange for colleges to visit for training. 

An additional part of the Academy’s extensive fire training includes the Safety and Survival Weekend, also known as the Rapid Intervention Crew training weekend. This “is a rigid, three-day, hands-on training program that teaches firefighters essential safety and survival techniques that could save their lives,” Jenks explained. The Safety and Survival Weekend will happen Oct. 23-25. 

Pepe attributes the Academy’s success to its “top-notch” instructors: “The instructors all bring something to the table; we look to hire people with specialties.” 

Jenks, a part-time instructor, specializes in training new recruits in the Fire 1 and Fire 2 Pro Board Curriculum, as well as training recruits for Traffic Incident Management (TIM).  He, too, attributes the Academy’s success to its instructors: “I have taken training classes at the Academy in the past and have always been impressed with the delivery of the training programs and first-class facilities. Chief Lou Pepe and all of our senior instructors (both past and present) are the ones responsible for the success and growth of the Academy.”

Editor's note: This is the second piece of a three-part series on the training conducted at the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy.

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