High-level training close to home

After Miles City Firefighter Justin Russell, left, adjusts the fire truck pump settings for one scenario Monday, fellow firefighter and training instructor Jerry Prete makes changes to his fire story, requiring Russell to make changes to the pump settings. The training was part of an ongoing effort by the fire department to get everyone certified to current standards. (Star photo by Steve Allison)


Miles City Fire & Rescue is taking advantage of some advanced training, but luckily, they don’t have to go far to get it. Local firefighter Jerry Prete is also an instructor through the Montana State University Fire Services Training School. He spent several days last week conducting classes at the station. 

On Saturday Prete and all the firefighters gathered at the fairgrounds for the driving training and testing part of the certification program. The trucks will be busy wetting down the lake in the park all week as different firefighters go through the pump operator training. After the pump training is done, all the firefighters have a series of online classes to complete before Prete gives them the final certification tests to bring everyone up to current standards.

One look at the control panel on the pump truck, with its many knobs and controls, tells you just how complicated pump setting adjustments can get. Prete takes firefighters through different scenarios, requiring them to make various adjustments for each one.

Miles City is lucky that Prete lives here and is the department’s safety officer. Prete is willing to give the training classes several times to different firefighters as they show up for work on normal rotation. Extra hoses and equipment are brought to the classes so they can be disconnected and left behind if a call takes trucks and fire crews away. If more complicated training classes require all the firefighters in one place at one time, the off-duty firefighters volunteer their time so all the training can be completed at no extra cost to the city.

Training everyone to certified standards for every position - even ones they are not normally assigned to - may not be necessary, but one never knows when he might be called upon to fill in for a different spot than normal. Also, communications during a fire are done over radios, so being positive what the other person means when they call for changes is a safety necessity.