Future firefighters training closer to home

Published: May. 11, 2023 at 4:27 PM EDT
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FORT DRUM, New York (WWNY) - Creating a new culture for recruits while providing real-life firefighter training. Those are just some of the goals Watertown Fire Chief Matt Timerman looks to achieve as a new training program being run in the north country is underway.

“After the loss of Peyton Morse, we’ve started this program and our goal is to really make this be a more positive learning environment,” said Timerman.

Potential Watertown firefighters are making their way through the department’s new in-house training program. This is the first class of firefighters to do so. Training at Fort Drum, instead of the state fire academy in Montour Falls, where Watertown firefighter Peyton Morse suffered a medical emergency that would later take his life.

“We want to have more control, a bit more local control over it so that we know who is teaching our recruits,” said Timerman.

Thursday’s training at Fort Drum marks the halfway point in the process in the 12 weeks for recruits. A process that Chief Timerman hopes to be able to spread throughout the north country.

“The atmosphere is the most important thing. We want the instructors that work with our recruits to be positive, to make sure that they’re encouraging them, make sure they’re trying to be the best firefighters they can be,” he said.

Seven recruits from the Watertown and Ogdensburg fire departments spent the day working on fire survival skills, including battling a three-story structure fire.

“They’re probably going to do 10 burns today, which is quite a bit. It’s controlled obviously but they’re still going to experience the zero visibility. They’re going to feel the heat,” said Ogdensburg Fire Chief Ken Stull.

And essential life-saving skills.

“It’s a great asset for the whole community to be able to have this type of facility where all surrounding fire departments, whether they’re volunteer or career, are able to come in and use it to build their skills,” said Fort Drum Deputy Fire Chief Michael Marks.

The recruits will continue their training with the program, wrapping up at the end of June.