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Brighton Area Fire Hires 22 New Firefighters; 16 Begin Fire Academy

The Livingston County Fire Academy includes cadets from Brighton, Wixom, Walled Lake, South Lyon and Putnam Township.

The Brighton Area Fire Authority (BAFA) is getting an influx of new blood with its recent hire of 22 new paid-on call firefighters since September.

Of those new firefighters, 16 began the Fire Academy this week. 

BAFA currently has 91 paid on-call firefighters, but is basically always hiring, according to Brighton Area Fire Chief Mike O'Brian.

The department lost 27 firefighters in 2011 due to various factors like job relocation, time commitments and more, then another 11 in 2012. O'Brian said the department will probably be in a state where they need to hire 20 to 25 new firefighters every year.

Each firefighter is required to complete the State of Michigan Fire Fighter I and II training as well as complete Medical First Responder (MFR) training before they are allowed to participate in an emergency.

BAFA will host the Livingston County Fire Academy, as it has for the last few years, at Station 32 on Old US-23 near Hyne Rd. In addition to Brighton new hires, cadets from Wixom, Walled Lake, South Lyon and Putnam Township will also be participating.

The 16 new hires is the largest group Brighton has had going in, according to BAFA HR Director Anne Campbell.

The academy will finish by the end of July, where cadets will then pick up on-the-job training, which includes job shadowing, mapping, learning policies and operational procedures as well as learning to work with a team.

"From my opinion, the academy just their base (training)," O'Brian said. "The calls we go on require our men and women to think really weird and crazy stuff, especially with all the freeway we have and our demographic. So we expect them to operate at a very efficient level. If you think about what you want when they step off a fire truck, you don't want the B Team or the JV Team - you want the Varsity Team, you want the big guys. So really there's a lot of training that happens outside of that formal process as well."

However, not all 16 new hires are expected to make it through all the training.

Campbell said the department began tracking retention through training in 2008, when they were losing half of their trainees. Since then, with the use of competency tests, the number has improved a great deal.

It costs BAFA about $10,000 to put a single firefighter through the academy, according to Campbell.

And that's without gear, O'Brian added.

By the very end of their training and with the purchase of gear and masks, that number jumps to about $20,000 per person, O'Brian said.

"We now have competency tests because what we're trying to do is find firefighters with the right make-up," he said. "It's not just about if they want to help their community, we want to make sure they're going to be a good fit for us."

For more information about becoming a paid on-call firefighter, visit brightonareafire.com.

"We're always looking for good people," O'Brian said.

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