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Wellesley puts firefighting students through their paces

For the third year now, students from the firefighter program at Conestoga College are cutting their teeth in Wellesley Township. Ten students arrived at the Linwood station Monday morning, ready to learn the ropes.

The intent of the program is to give students the ability to put some of the skills they’ve learned to practical use, said Wellesley fire chief Andrew Lillico.

“What they can’t do in a classroom is see what fire station life is like.”

Throughout the week students filled fire reservoirs as required by the municipality, learned how to use portable water pumps and pump relay systems, and gained experience working on tanker trucks.

“A lot of them will become full-time firefighters in the city and not see tanker operations or portable pumps, so it gives them a little extra experience to see that kind of thing,” noted Lillico.

The students also performed a lot of behind-the-scenes tasks that many might not realize is part of the job description.

“It’s not just responding to emergencies,” said Lillico, who taught at Conestoga for about three years and whose son is also enrolled in the fire training program at St. Lawrence College in Brockville. “It’s also public education, fire prevention, and the other stuff called ‘station duties’ as well.”

Those duties include washing and waxing the trucks, checking equipment, and cleaning the station itself – including the floors and bathroom. While the students were not permitted to respond to any emergency calls throughout the week, Lillico did arrange a simulated fire in an old shed, which the students had to extinguish themselves.

“We let them set up things like lighting, ventilation fans, water supply, the attack lines and stuff like that – let them see a little more of a simulated incident.”

The student’s week in Wellesley isn’t just for their own benefit, either. Lillico noted it provides a good experience for him and all the other volunteer firefighters involved.

“We see some new faces, and sometimes you get new ideas as well. And it promotes Wellesley Township Fire Department,” he said, adding that he intends to take another group of students in April.

“And for us as instructors, you have to be really sharp and on your toes. It keeps our skills honed too.”

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