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‘A career of service’: More than 100 hopefuls attend firefighter boot camp

Updated May 28, 2024 - 6:33 pm

Las Vegas firefighter Nathan Nelson had a question for those in attendance at Sunday’s boot camp as they gathered around him.

“What are you willing to do to prepare?” he asked them. “What are you willing to do to have a career in the fire service?”

It was a question posed repeatedly to the more than 100 mostly young people who attended Sunday’s boot camp at the Cashman Complex, which was open to anyone 14 or older who might be interested in a career in firefighting.

‘A career of service’

And the answer, according to the firefighters who know what the job is like, is that firefighting hopefuls, in addition to their own smarts and strength, really must bring a can-do, don’t-quit attitude.

“This is a career of service and you have to be willing to make that sacrifice,” Nelson said.

Participants on Sunday moved between various activities that included deadlifting, running while pulling weights, trying on firefighting equipment, running a mile and a half, and hearing from a human resources representative about aspects such as interviewing skills.

They also listened to firefighters such as Nelson, a U.S. Air Force veteran, and Michael Willis, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, tell them about the military-like focus on honor, attention to detail and discipline that come with a firefighting career.

Goal of adding to ranks

Jordan Moore, the community engagement administrator for the Fire Department, said the goal of Sunday’s boot camp was to help add to the agency’s ranks. Moore said the hiring process runs June 3-8. Other monthly boot camp-style events will continue until October, with the next on June 30, Moore said.

“The goal of this is really for recruitment,” Moore said. “We want to take people from our Las Vegas Valley who want to work in fire service but just don’t know how.”

About 20 firefighters ran the boot camp with help from five young people from the department’s Explorers program, which is for those between 15 and 25 who are hoping to have a career in firefighting, Moore said. He estimated that between 100 and 200 people showed up for Sunday’s event.

Participants spoke of the reasons they want to become firefighters and also about the things they learned Sunday.

‘This is his calling’

Colton Mendez, 17, had the fastest time — 9 minutes, 3 seconds — in his group for the 1.5-mile run, which saw runners each do four laps around one of the parking lots at the complex.

“A lot of people need help and when you can give them that, it feels great,” Mendez said.

Mendez explained what he took away from Sunday’s boot camp: “Maybe just the mental aspect of it, how disciplined they are, how early they wake up and and how much they love their job,” he said of the firefighters.

“I think this is his calling,” added Colton’s dad, Javier Mendez, 39. “He should definitely pursue it, and I think my duty as his parent is to support him in every aspect of his life.”

Krystal DaForno, 39, said her daughter, Kailey, 15, would make a great firefighter.

“It’s more than a job, as they were saying — it’s like a family,” Kailey DaForno said. “And I just wanted to see how much work you have to put in to be a firefighter.”

“I think you have to be able to be put under pressure and not want to be super emotional,” said Krystal DaForno. “I know you see some probably drastic things. And I think that she has that personality to be strong.”

Inspired by brother

Jason Cebreros, 27, said part of his inspiration to be a firefighter comes from his brother, who became one about a year and a half ago.

“He influences me to do better, push myself, and looking into it, the fire department is one thing that I see myself doing, and helping the community and the people that live in my town,” Cebreros said.

Moore said it’s the qualities that can’t be taught that the Fire Department puts a premium on. She referenced the department’s shield, which is circled by the words “Honor,” “Trust,” “Integrity,” and “Duty.”

“We can teach people how to fight fire, we can teach you how to run emergency calls, but we can’t teach you to be a good person, to be hardworking, to be honest, to have integrity, honor, be trustworthy,” Moore said. “Those are the some of the things that show up on our shield, and we want people that align with those values.”

According to the department’s press release announcing the boot camp, firefighter recruitment is open to anybody 18 or older who has a high school diploma or equivalent and a valid driver’s license.

Candidates will be required to pass a written firefighter exam as a well as a physical fitness assessment, the department says.

“Current emergency medical technician or paramedic certification is preferred; wildfire experience, veteran status, military experience and bi-lingual fluency each will be a plus for candidates,” the press release said.

There will also be an upcoming recruitment for the Explorer program, according to the release.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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