November 20, 2023

Fire Academy 14-15: For a Firefighter Recruit, Attention to Detail Matters When Going Through Academy Training

VBFD has two concurrent Fire academies. VBFA 14 is currently in EMT training, while VBFA 15 is in fire school.

Virginia Beach Fire Academy 14 and 15

Virginia Beach Fire Academy 14 firefighter recruits begin their day early in the morning. From 8-9:30 a.m., recruits endure physical training—a paramount standard to being an active firefighter.

Before the start of PT on Nov. 16, firefighter recruits hovered in a circle as a master firefighter gave them a lesson on self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). It’s an important device firefighters use when going into a fire scene.

The recruits listened attentively and immediately responded in unison when the instructor asked them questions about the SCBA. Once the lesson was over, recreation specialist Michael Matz split the recruits into two groups and gave detailed instructions on the morning’s PT exercises.

A master firefighter giving a lesson on a self contained breathing apparatus

Intent, Attitude and Mindset

Capt. Dustin Lyle said when it comes to training a firefighter recruit “details matter in this profession.” He’s the main instructor at the fire training center and oversees VBFA 15. Lyle said he’s big on a few critical components: intent, attitude and mindset. Those components are emphasized especially during PT and into the classroom.

“As long as they have the right positive mindset, the right attitude, and they understand the intent,” he said.

Hands-on Learning

After PT, VBFA 14 heads off to daily instruction for lecture and then to the EMS skills rooms. Capt. Adam Ritsch explained that for EMT training, there are six different skill stations set up in different rooms. The recruits are split into six groups or squads.

This is where the intent part comes in: firefighter recruits learn in the classroom setting, after lecture they come into the skill station to do the practical portion. It’s hands-on training and to ensure what was taught in class is remembered by recruits in a real-world scenario.

“Once they get a baseline understanding of it, they’ll start quizzing each other,” Ritsch added. “Once they get enough check offs—its somewhere between four to six per skill—they will then approach the instructor and say, ‘I’m ready to take my final exam on this.’”

Once all skills for EMS are complete, they will begin student EMT ride duties—24 hours in an ambulance for state requirement—after the Thanksgiving break. VBFA 14 will take their final testing just before the Christmas holidays.

VBFA 14 enduring physical training

Fire Academy 13-14-15

It’s uncommon for more than one academy to be ongoing at the same time. With the support of the Virginia Beach City Council, City Manager’s Office and Fire Chief Ken Pravetz, the Virginia Beach Fire Department was allowed to “overhire” and have three concurrent fire academies at the Harry E. Diezel Fire Training Center beginning in September due to anticipated vacancies and employee attrition. With the large number of recruits in both academies, the training center did things differently by starting VBFA 14 in EMT training and VBFA 15 in fire school. VBFA 13, the certified fire academy, has already graduated.

Next month’s blog, we’ll see how VBFA 15 is doing in fire school. This one of several blogs in a series that will highlight the fire academies, firefighter recruit training, pre-hire prep and fire explorer program.

If you are interested in learning more about the Virginia Beach Fire Department and what the day in the life of a firefighter is like, visit Email if you have any questions regarding the hiring process or to be added to the interest list for next year’s hiring process.

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Virginia Beach Fire Administration

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