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June 30, 2022

Trial by fire

Editor’s Note: The reporter’s son is Andrew Wise.

On Thursday, May 26, Central Fire, Santa Cruz City Fire and Watsonville Fire departments welcome nine recruits to their rosters following Santa Cruz City Fire Department’s Regional Academy graduation—six graduates, including Felton’s Andy Wise, are joining the Santa Cruz department.

Santa Cruz City Fire’s Chief Rob Oatey outlined the grueling training recruits endured at the academy. 

“It was an arduous 16 weeks of intense training,” he said. “Every morning, the recruits would start with a rigorous workout, followed by hands-on training in multiple disciplines: technical rope rescue, confined space rescue, forcible entry, vehicle extrication and so much more. By the end of the academy, these recruits are a jack of all trades.”

In addition to the physical demands, Oatey said recruits learn what it means to be a part of the fire service. They learn to work together as cadets and train partners, which helps them become part of the “fire family” and assimilate as a crew, serving their communities. Chief Oatey met individually with each candidate and said they were ready to do just that: serve the community. 

“These are all individuals I would trust with my own family,” he said. “We are truly blessed to have these six dedicated recruits join our ranks. The academy is an opportunity to learn what they’re capable of; skill isn’t always the entire lesson. What they learned goes far beyond tangible skills—they built strength and constantly pushed themselves.”

Added Santa Cruz City Fire Academy Coordinator Chief Ryan Reber, “Initially, the recruits were shocked by the physical requirements, but quickly got into great shape.”

The training included simulated fire attacks, live fire drills, rescue techniques and a mock scenario that involved maneuvering out of the windows of a two-story structure. “We’re very lucky to have them coming on board,” Reber said. “Every graduating recruit gave 100%, and they should be extremely proud of what they’ve accomplished. The regional academy approach leads to us working well with all other agencies, and because everyone went through the academy together, there’s a strong camaraderie between departments.”

For more information, visit theacademy.ca.gov/fire-fighter-i-academy-cabrillo.

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