BELGRADE - It was a collaboration that many people didn't think was possible 6 months ago. Gallatin Valley Fire Academy between Big Sky Fire Dept, Bozeman Fire Dept, and Central Valley Fire District.
“This has never happened in this county before,” says Bozeman Fire Chief, Josh Waldo.
“I'm really proud that we can say we are part of the first group and I hope that we set the bar high and the standard high,” says Fire Academy Graduate, Chad Van Berkum.
Van Berkum is part of the first graduating class of an idea that was sparked about 6 months ago. The goal is to train the firefighters together and train them here in the valley rather than sending recruits out of state.
“We've always had this idea but we really wanted to make it a reality and so we met with all of the chiefs and said we'd like to see this through,” says Central Valley Fire District Training Officer, Anthony Stratman.
For the three largest career departments in Gallatin County, their newest firefighters will all have the same training.
“It's been a huge effort between the three agencies,” says Stratman.
The three departments unified their training for 12 weeks in Gallatin County.
“Throughout the 12 weeks the firefighters have learned a variety of skills that are going to prepare them to start responding on the line,” says Stratman.
Class 22-1 was the first class to graduate from Gallatin Valley Fire Academy; seven recruits went through this new program. Now one graduate joins Bozeman Fire Department and six join the Central Valley Fire District.
“The last twelve weeks have been a lot of hard, a lot of growth,” says Van Berkum.
With the fire academy behind them, and their new careers ahead Van Berkum reflects on the 12 weeks, and now that he is a new firefighter.
Chad “I don’t know if it's fully sunken in yet,” says Van Berkum.
Van Berkum hopes that being the first class to go through the academy, he and his class are able to set the bar high for future recruits.
“We're just starting a new chapter and the real work is starting,” says Van Berkum “We are happy and eager to serve the community.”