South Whidbey Fire/EMS welcomes four graduates of the fire academy this month: Heather Zuzel and Clay O’Brien (Station 33 – Maxwelton), Nicole Hagen (Station 35 – Saratoga) and Blake Benenati (Out of District). This was a combined academy with North Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue, who welcomes nine new members.

Classroom instruction began in January. Due to COVID-19, the academy moved online and utilized a platform called “Resource One” to deliver much of the curriculum. The virus created many challenges, and modifications were made throughout the coursework to safely merge online instruction with critical, in-person experience.

“COVID-19 brought the academy to a screeching halt for a few weeks while we attempted to figure out what it really was,” said Deputy Chief Wendy Moffatt. “It’s been a long road for these recruits. It just shows how dedicated and focused they are to have the fortitude to keep going despite all the chaos and fear surrounding the unknown virus.”

New technology contributed to this year’s success, as well as committed volunteers and strong instructors like Captain Jerry Helm with Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue. Also, Special Agent Tanna Langue from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) taught the recruits about fire behavior and scene investigations.

“The academy lays the foundation of being a firefighter,” said Moffatt. “As members of their respective departments, they’ll participate in training opportunities and weekly drills to keep their skills sharp. It’s now up to them to continue to embark in their personal growth of learning.”

South Whidbey Fire/EMS is recruiting for the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) Academy, to run from mid-August to early December.  The next fire academy begins in January 2021.