“It’s worth it, if I lose my life. I’ll know it wasn’t worthless. People live with regret. When I die I’m going to be complete,” said William Correa, 19-year-old fire cadet.
Every weekend and every Thursday for an entire year, the GCC fire academy cadets go through rigorous training with hopes to graduate the fire academy program to apply to a city fire department to continue their training.
“I’m not in this for money,” said Correa. “I wanted to choose a career where I’m actually doing this to make your life better, to save you.”
Correa said he had always heard stories about firefighters getting hurt and how some don’t make it out while on the job.
“If you know your thing you’ll be fine,” said Correa confidently as he explained that in the academy, the cadets learn how to handle fires safely.
Mike Berdrow, 28, is looking forward to fighting fires. “I’m not scared; I have the training and knowledge now. I’m kind of excited to see how it’s going to be once I hit the real life fire, putting my knowledge and skills into action.”
On Saturday, the cadets began to practice their drills that included bunker drills; putting on all their 20-pound fire protecting gear in 60 seconds or less, immediately running once around the burned building, crawling through a large pipe, and getting back into their positions to do push-ups, all to get them use to working hard in their equipment.
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., the cadets repeated the exercises, without knowing what time it was.
Corrina Bednorski, 39, the only female in the academy at the time and battalion chief of Alpha platoon, has wanted to be a firefighter since she was 18 but was ineligible because of her credit.
After getting divorced last year, she figured that nothing was stopping her.
“It’s a blast, it’s a lot of fun,” said Bednorski about the academy. She likes the danger aspect and that it is both physically and mentally challenging. “I’m looking forward to getting a good basis in this academy, getting hired, and starting a career.”
In the academy, Bednorski learned not only future work skills but life skills. She mentioned that she doesn’t like heights but realized that “it’s all in your head.”
“You learn that you don’t have limits, if you think you can’t do something, chances are that you can, it’s all in your head. You can do anything that you set out to do,” said Bednorski.
Her advice to those who want to pursue a career in firefighting is: “Make sure you’re in physical condition to do it, and go for it.”
Gilbert Pedroza, fire academy instructor, says that there will be a new class opening up for the fall semester.
Fire 144 is a preparatory class for people who are looking to
get in the fire academy.
“It helps people get in shape, to get ready for the physical requirements for entrance exams,” said Pedroza.
The class is not only for people who are looking to get into the fire academy, said Pedroza. “It’s a great way for people who want to take a P.E. class, we’ll be talking about nutrition and how muscle memory works.”
Andrew Padilla, president of the academy, said his father’s captain recommended the academy.
With his father being firefighter, Padilla knows what the job entails. He feels good about what he will be doing. “A lot of us appreciate how the public treats us.”
Toward the end of the fall semester, the cadets will be executing a search and rescue drill in which they will have to enter a burning building, which is set up with a fire burning at one corner of the house. The cadets will go in as teams and search for dummies, representing victims, in the fire.
With all windows to be covered, and smoke increasing in the building, the cadets will experience some of what they will encounter in their field of work.
From all the cadets that begin the academy, 30 percent don’t make it, said Pedroza. For those who do make it, they probably keep the academy motto in mind: “With fire in our hearts, wisdom in our minds, and passion in our veins.”