Ninety-six percent of all North Dakota firefighters are volunteers.
North Dakota has 308 fire departments and only four of them have paid personnel.
The North Dakota Firefighters Association 59th annual fire school provides classes a
ND hands on training for the first time volunteer firefighter to advanced burn training.
Eleven new classes have been added this year pertaining to regional oil activity but as Jennifer Thorgramson tells us, fighting fire can sometimes be counter-intuitive, and the basics are still number one at fire school.
The number of volunteer firefighters IS growing along with the population.
But it takes time for new recruits to be ready.
(Rob Knuth, ND Firefighters Assoc. Training Director) "This is the first opportunity for a lot of firefighters to actually experience live fire."
Live fire training pulls volunteers from a book and into the heat.
(Rob Knuth, ND Firefighters Assoc. Training Director) "When you approach a car fire, a lot of individuals focus on the flames. They teach you not to focus on the fire. Obviously, that is the end result, that you extinguish the fire, but where the fire is in the vehicle is only part of the big picture. You have hazardous materials to deal with, components that are made out of flammable metals. So if you go in there and start spraying water, you could have a negative reaction and that would make the incident worse. They teach you about position and situational awareness, fuel leaking down towards you. You want to attack it from up hill, make sure the winds behind you so you're not going into the smoke. You want to have your SCBA on because you don't know what kind of smoke you're going to be breathing. So we take that into consideration. And then obviously, they get a chance to see fire and put water on it."
And while some are learning the latest techniques, volunteer fire department communities are in safe hands around the state.
(Rob Knuth, ND Firefighters Assoc. Training Director) "What we hope for is that the individuals that do attend, learn something and take it back and then next year, those individuals get a chance to come to fire school."
In Minot, Jennifer Thorgramson, KX News.
Registration fees were waived for all fire school participants this year thanks to a grant from Workforce Safety.