Academy teaches firefighting basics

Adam Smith watched his father be cut free from a burning car when he was seven years old and knew he wanted to be a firefighter.

“That wreck should have killed him, but the firemen saved my dad’s life,” said Smith, a biology junior. “I stood there on the side of the road and knew that someday I would save lives just like those men.”

Smith, who plans to go to medical school, has found a way to step into the shoes of a firefighter, even if just for 12 weeks.

The Citizen’s Fire Academy, hosted by the Lexington Fire Department, invites community members living or working in Fayette County to learn rescue skills from firefighters.

“We want to give people a chance to learn not only what we do as firefighters but why we do it as well,” said firefighter John Davis, who is organizing the fourth-annual academy. “We don’t just cut things up to cut them up or spray hoses to use water. We do it to save lives, and we want people to learn about our processes.”

Citizens who sign up for the academy will get a chance to put on a hazmat suit, climb the fire truck ladder, spray hoses and cut up a car with the jaws of life.

“It’s about 75 percent hands-on, actually doing the stuff,” Davis said. “There’s nothing worse than sitting in a class listening to people talk about what they do. We’re going to give them a chance to learn how to do what we do.”

Smith said he is excited about learning from the firefighters but thinks watching the other members of the academy will be the most memorable part.

“I’ve experienced the impact that saving someone’s life can have on a family,” Smith said. “But I’m excited to watch people learn and get a better understanding about how important firemen are.”

Each class will focus on a different rescue skill and will be taught by firefighters from various stations in Lexington.

“We bring in people from the fireline and feature different companies to excel in various areas,” Davis said. “This gives the people a chance to learn from the people who do this kind of stuff every day.”

Classes begin Jan. 29 and will continue every Tuesday for 12 weeks. Participants have to be at least 18, and the cost is free. About 17 people have signed up for the first of four 12-week sessions that will be held this year, and the program usually takes a maximum of 25 people per academy class.

“It doesn’t matter their age. We’ve had a 72-year-old woman climbing a 100-foot area ladder,” Davis said. “We just want people who want to get involved.”

Those interested can call Davis at (859) 231-5605 or go to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Web site ( to download an application.