Nicole Peters is not the kind of person who wants to stand around and wait for help to arrive when there is an emergency.
She wants to be the help.
That’s why she signed up for the Howland Township Fire and EMS Training Center’s eight-week Firefighter II training course at Brookfield Fire Department.
“I always liked being with the first-responders,” said the 20-year-old Southington woman, who is an emergency medical technician with Southington Volunteer Fire Department. “I never want to be the one waiting outside.”
The training academy, which began June 5 and runs through July 26, is a mix of classroom teaching, physical training, field trips and fire scenarios — including hose lays, rescue techniques, hazardous material response and terrorism awareness. There are nine cadets.
The physical training part of each class session is nothing short of tough, said Nathan Butler, a cadet and emergency medical technician for East Liverpool Fire Department.
On this day, the cadets were lifting and overturning four sets of tires, each one bigger than the last.
At 28, Butler was the old man of the class, and the younger cadets, some of whom look like they live in a gym, set a very high bar.
“It’s tough keeping up with the younger kids,” he said. “They’re pretty fast.”
Peters had a different disadvantage. “They definitely have the size and build over me,” she said of her all-male training partners.
But, firefighters tend to believe in teamwork. When her hands were slipping off the largest tire, a couple of guys helped her get the thing off the ground.
“It kicks your butt,” she said of the physical training. “I’m surprised I can keep up with them.”
To complete the course, she has to keep up with them.
“Everything they do, I do, but it might be at my own pace,” Peters said.
When the cadets had gone through the course, the trainers and on-duty members of the Brookfield Fire Department took their turns.
“I think it motivates them (cadets) a little bit, to see us doing it,” said Brookfield Fire Lt. Nick Cresanto, one of the instructors.
Brookfield is a satellite training location for the Howland center because it has the amenities needed — both classroom space indoors and fire training apparatus outdoors, Cresanto said.
“It’s a pleasure having them here,” he said.
Peters said you really have to pay attention in class because there is so much information covered in a short amount of time.
“They are good instructors,” Butler said. “They really know their stuff.”
The class even covers nutrition, and the field trips give insight to aspects of the fire service that most probably wouldn’t think about when they’re putting on their turnout gear and jumping into a truck.
The cadets visit the Trumbull County 911 center to get a sense of what goes on when a call comes in, and the Aqua Pennsylvania water treatment plant in Sharon, so they understand how fighting a fire affects the water system, Cresanto said.
Peters said she isn’t bothered by being the only woman in the academy, noting she was the only one in her EMT school.
“It’s pretty much like I’m one of the guys,” she said.
Cresanto said he evaluates the candidates who go through the school and has recommended graduates to apply to the Brookfield Fire Department for jobs.
“I recruit from the class,” he told trustees.
In top photo: Nicole Peters, a cadet in a firefighter training program being conducted at the Brookfield Fire Department, lifts a tire as part of the physical training element of the school.