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Participants gear up for Johns Creek Citizens Fire Academy
Fire Academy 1
Debbie Heaney – is one of the first to get fitted for her fire suit and gets the first pick of boots to try on - photo by Bradley Wiseman

In the dimming light of early evening, nearly 20 people picked through overlapping rows of thick yellow protective gear, each person searching out a jacket, pants, gloves and a cowl from the mess of clothing. The group was instructed by three watching officials, checking each piece if gear was securely fastened and checked for fit and weight.  

Lastly, boots and helmets were donned, leaving the Johns Creek Fire department parking lot crowded with a group of Johns Creek residents who are ready to feel the heat and hopefully learn what it takes to be a firefighter in today’s world.    

“Basically, you get to play firefighter for a few weeks,” said Lt. Chris Wall, deputy fire marshal for the City of Johns Creek, at the second meeting of the fifth annual Johns Creek Citizens Fire Academy.

Wall said the program is aimed at taking people from every background and putting them through an exhaustive course on the intricacies of being a fire and rescue worker.

“We let them put their hands on some equipment, learn some first aid, some CPR, some citizen disaster management skills,” Wall said.   

“People don’t understand what the fire department really does. They think that we just fight fire, otherwise we are just hanging out at the station and that’s not true … we are trained in paramedicine, swift water rescue, technical rope rescue… we have to be ready to respond to any scenario that you can imagine,” he said.

The second class of this program was held Tuesday night at the Johns Creek Fire Station, No. 62.

At the event, participants were issued a full set of firefighter’s protective gear that will accompany them throughout the eight-week course.

One of the attendees, Debbie Heaney was there with her husband Tim, she said that she had attended a similar program that the Johns Creek Police department puts on each year and that she was so impressed she knew coming to the Citizens Fire Academy was a good idea.

“I have always had a really good view on what they have done,” she said, while removing her gear and waiting for the next part of the class.

“I have told all my friends and neighbors that they should get out and do it,” she said.

She added that the best part of the previous citizen’s academy program that she went to was how interactive it was, allowing participants to see into all aspects of what it takes to be in law enforcement.

According to Wall, participants in the program will get to put their hands on various pieces of firefighting and medical equipment like the Jaws of Life, and will use their new protective gear in a live fire scenario.

This program is only open to residents of Johns Creek, but Forsyth County residents will have a similar opportunity at a citizen’s fire academy held by the Forsyth County Fire Department.

Late this past January, Forsyth County announced that it would be continuing the largely popular program and extended an invite to any resident of Forsyth County 25 years of age or older.

Open registration for the Forsyth County Citizens Fire Academy has already closed, but Division Chief Jason Shivers, spokesman for the department said that interested residents should keep an eye out for the registration dates for the 2019 academy. Shivers said that they have seen enormous interest in the program over the years and said that it would likely continue in the future.

He added that the Forsyth County program will be similar to the program held in Johns Creek, giving residents an idea, “of what their tax dollars are going to.”

The 2018 Forsyth County Citizens Fire Academy will take place from March 6-May 12.