From “What do you want to be when you grow up?” — It’s the big question we all face when we’re young, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Common answers are firefighter or police officer and middle and high school students from the Wausau Boys and Girls Club got the chance to live out that dream on Wednesday.

Kids got to try on a couple different hats for size at the Northcentral Technical College Safety Center of Excellence in Merrill as they went through the training exercises of police, fire, and EMS professionals.

“It’s really fun and it teaches us to be on our feet and be very active,” Tyler Jones, 14 said.

“They’re kind of at that point of ‘what should I do for my career when I get a little bit older?’ And, ‘where should I go to college?’ And things like that are starting to play into their minds, so this gives them an opportunity to see maybe this might be the avenue that they might want to venture into,” said the college’s Public Safety Executive Director Bert Nitzke.

Fourteen-year-old Asia Stalsberg said she’s now thinking of going into the behind the scenes work of public safety.

The hands-on experiences is, of course a great opportunity for all the kids involved, but it’s especially so for the young women.

“This has been a male-dominated field for a long time and seeing more girls come here today and seeing them apply at the fire departments is great because we do need that diversity and it’s just great seeing them out here having fun,” said SAFER Firefighter and EMT Emily Dobeck. “Sometimes it can be very intimidating seeing is how most of the tasks that we perform require strength, but sometimes it comes in handy when you’re smaller.”

Experiences like the one the Boys and Girls Club and NTC provided for the kids may inspire more women to join the field.

If you would like to try some of the college’s hands-on training classes or bring your group to some, you can visit their website here:

From “Counselors live what students will experience” — EAU CLAIRE – At McDonell Central High School in Chippewa Falls, it’s part of Jerry Van Dyke’s job to advise students on college and career selections and keep their high school experiences on track so they can reach their goals. He just got a little better at it.

Now Van Dyke will be able to tell his students from firsthand experience what they’re going to need in some of Chippewa Valley Technical College’s (CVTC’s) most popular programs.

“I’m here to learn about what young students in the program are experiencing right out of high school. It’s learning about it through practical experience,” Van Dyke said. He was one of dozens of high school counselors attending a recent conference at CVTC in which they were updated on requirements and expectations in the FireMedic, Paramedic/EMT, Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement and Paralegal programs.

However, the CVTC students who acted as instructors for the session did not just talk to the counselors about the credits required. They had them dressing in firefighter’s gear, holding a spraying fire hose, climbing ladders, tearing apart a wrecked car, checking vitals on a simulated patient, and many other activities that students in the programs face.

“I can advise kids so much better after today,” said Aaron Hass, the counselor at Mondovi High School. “I will have the practical experience to say, ‘I was in on that session, and you need (Advanced Placement) one and two.’”

Counselors from the area meet at CVTC once a year. “The purpose is to give them an overview of admission requirements and programs and update them on changes,” said Gayle Ostermann of Menomonie, an enrollment specialist at CVTC who works closely with the counselors. “This year was different because we decided to target one of our career clusters.” A survey of the counselors led to selection of the Law, Public Safety and Security cluster.

The CVTC staff planning the event decided to make it a hands-on experience, and to have students, who were so recently high school students themselves, conduct the sessions.

“The level of maturity of the students now in college was displayed to the counselors, who can talk about that with their high school students too,” Ostermann said.

Van Dyke sees the opportunity to take what he’s learned back to McDonell, where he can quickly dispel some of the misconceptions of students who think they don’t need this-or-that class to pursue a chosen career.

“One of the (Criminal Justice program) students pointed out the need for communication skills. That’s something 17-year-olds don’t realize,” Van Dyke said.

“The kids would be surprised by the amount of academics,” Hass said. “A lot of them want to skid through high school and think tech school will just be easy. (In Paramedic/EMT) they have to take anatomy and physiology.”

“In firefighting, they have to know physics, and do math right in the truck,” Van Dyke added.

“Math is so incredibly important. Kids need math skills and need to continue them because of the safety factor,” said Linda Mikunda, counselor at Barron High School.

Barb Van Doorn of Lake Holcombe High School had a different perspective. Academic requirements can be found in publications. “But we saw firsthand exactly what you need for FireMedic. You get a better idea of what students are going through. We are always so concerned about cognitive abilities, but with this program we learned what is physically needed, and what is emotionally needed.”

“We thought the sessions would energize them” said Ostermann. “There were a lot of smiles today.”


From “Nicolet College’s EMT’s, Firefighters at High Percentage” — Nicolet College is turning out a new batch of EMTs and state certified firefighters. 25 out of 26 students passed the most recent national certification for Emergency Management Technicians. 17 out of 18 passed the state’s practical firefighting exam. Director of public safety and campus security Jason Goeldner says a new curriculum helped bring in the high passing rates.

“We’ve incorporated an online platform, which is either called a blending or a hybrid learning style. And even though most of the learning takes place in the classroom, through lecture or hands on, we are able to stream online supporting materials – videos, exams, practical sessions in which the students can also learn outside of the classroom.”

Goeldner says high quality instructors are also to thank for the good scores. He says most students will use their certifications to volunteer.

“Many people in the Nicolet district are doing this on a part-time basis to support their communities. There are a small portion that do it full time, mostly on the medical side of it.”

The number of training hours required for EMTs at Nicolet went up significantly this year. Goeldner says he hopes to improve the passing rate even further in the future.


From “CVTC camp aims to get girls more involved in firefighting” — By Aarik Woods – Girls are getting an inside look at a profession that is typically dominated by men. This week Chippewa Valley Technical College is hosting its first ever “Girls on Fire” camp. It’s a way to expose girls to the work required of firefighters and emergency medical service workers.

“Girls my age, they don’t think that they ever could be a firefighter,” said Redgy Bleskacek of Bloomer.

Sometimes, it takes a leap of faith to try new things. But that’s the idea behind the girls on fire camp; expose girls to something they may otherwise never try.

“When you think of firefighter, you think of male, so you think of a guy doing it. But now that I came to this camp, I feel like I can do it too,” explained Bleskacek.

CVTC says that women make up only four percent of firefighters nationwide. Local firefighters say the job can be demanding, which is why girls from 7th grade through high school are taking on ropes courses as part of the camp.

“You have to be strong. You’re going into places where nobody wants to go and you need to be able to get people out when they’re screaming your name. And a lot of women I guess probably don’t want to do that,” said Katie Hakes, Chippewa Fire District Firefighter.

But the job is more than just fighting fires, which is why the girls are also getting a first hand look at what else they could encounter.

“These girls need to realize that 80% of calls to the fire service are for EMS, so because of that they have to be trained. But we don’t really want to train them here, we just want to expose them and make them realize that EMS is a big piece of this, a very, very important part of it,” said Marcy Bruflat, CVTC Fire Training Program Director.

“It was a lot of hands on experience, and it’ll be a good learning experience because I think going in to EMS or firefighting would be a lot of fun,” said Madison Gilmartin.

Hakes added, “I don’t think it really matters whether you’re a man or a woman, but there’s definitely a necessity for us, because if your daughter or somebody was drowning, wouldn’t you want someone there right away?”

To give you an idea of the field locally, the Chippewa Fire District has 110 firefighters, and of that number, four are women. There are also several other women that are volunteers. Eau Claire has 92 firefighters, and just two are women. And in Chippewa Falls, the fire department is made of up 25 members, all of them men.

From “Firefighters Gain Valuable Training Experience” — A car flips over and the driver can only be rescued by being extricated through the trunk.


A disabled man needs to be rescued from a burning building.


These are all frightening scenarios, but fortunately this is only a drill,and the victims are only plastic mannequins.

Saturday fire crews were able to practice for when these situations could become reality.

“We can accommodate police, fire, EMS, and a whole host of other public opportunities. You can’t get any other hands on training in this area.” says Fire Training director Doug Jennings.

You can’t learn how to fight fires and save lives just through reading a textbook, so that is why Northcentral Technical College hosted Advanced Skill Training Day. It is a way for rescue crews to be able to prepare for the worst.

“This facility up here is great for facilitating hands-on scenarios. Today they aren’t talking about cutting cars, they are actually cutting cars in difficult positions.” Jennings says.

The event was a great way for N.T.C to showcase their brand new training center. After the original one was destroyed, they have been able to get the latest technology.

“Our public safety center was demolished in the tornado a few years ago. We were able to rebuild this complex out here with the help of our president to a fantastic facility.” says Jennings.

Now they are able to provide firefighters a way to practice for the worst, all while learning from each other.

From “Milton Fire/EMT intern sees tough, real-life training requirements” —   By Neil Johnson – MILTON — Milton Firefighter and EMT intern Heather Tollefson was tending to her daily marching orders on a quiet Friday morning.

Tollefson, 25, planned to write a report on an earlier emergency ambulance call, check the fire trucks’ firefighter air tanks and generators and head out for a set of pre-fire readiness checks at a half-dozen downtown Milton businesses.

Then, things got interesting.

At 10:27 a.m., the firehouse’s radios lit up with a report of a man stung by a hornet outside his home a few blocks away. The man was having an allergic reaction to the sting.

“I’ve gotta go,” Tollefson said, bounding off toward a fire department ambulance already idling in the firehouse garage.

Tollefson’s blond, braided ponytail bounced against her black Milton Fire Department T-shirt as she leapt into the back of the ambulance.

In a span of 10 seconds, Tollefson’s day had changed. Off she raced to an emergency.

For Tollefson, it was like any other day for a working intern at a small fire department. An intern can handle many kinds of tasks, some as mundane as cleaning a fire station restroom or filling oxygen tanks.

Other duties, such as writing reports or helping on calls as an ambulance or fire truck “ride along,” are crucial for a fire department trainee to gain hands-on work experience.

All the work gets logged in some way as part of a matrix of hundreds of training hours that a firefighter/emergency medical technician needs to complete as a full, on-call member of a fire department.

Tollefson already is certified as a base-level Emergency Medical Technician, known as an EMT-basic, but she is in the middle of a two-year program of coursework at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville to earn certification as an advanced paramedic and a firefighter.

A former restaurant supervisor who has a young daughter and is engaged to be married, Tollefson, a rural Milton resident, said she has always dreamed of being a full-time firefighter/paramedic. She said her fiancé, Eric Sympson of Edgerton, pressed her to follow her dreams.

On Friday, it just happened to be Tollefson’s first call to a serious insect sting.

Lt. Aaron Reed, 24, a five-year veteran on the Milton Fire Department, said as an intern, Tollefson could get thrown into any emergency situation at any time.

“When you’re training for this work, you get thrown right into real life. It’s an eye-opener. It’s not you and your buddies sitting around in class or a college cafeteria.

“Today, Heather asked if she could ride along on ambulance calls, and I said sure,” Reed said. “So there you go. Bee sting.”

Although other area departments have internship programs, Tollefson is the Milton Fire Department’s first firefighter intern.

She has been at the 40-member volunteer fire department for about nine months during her schooling at Blackhawk Tech. She has about another semester and a half at BTC. She works 36 hours a week on call at the department.

The intern program is a new line this year in the fire department’s budget, which is funded jointly by taxpayers from the city of Milton and the town of Milton.

Milton Fire Chief Loren Lippincott said having Tollefson as an intern bolsters the ranks of Milton’s fire department and helps Tollefson meet her education and training requirements. The department’s association also reimburses some of Tellefson’s school costs.

“The internship program is a small expense to us as a department, but it’s great for both us and Heather,” Lippincott said. “She’s getting great experience that she needs to advance her career here at Milton or another department. And it’s at less of cost to us than a part-time member.”

According to department records, about 20 percent of the Milton Fire Department’s 40 or so permanent, on-call firefighter/EMTs have been on the department two years or less. And, Reed said, more than half of the department’s members are under 35.

Many, he said, work full-time jobs outside the department—some as private EMTs. Others work in fields unrelated to public safety.

Regardless of education or experiences, the Milton Fire Department requires every firefighter to have at least 100 hours of training to meet department criteria, which range from fire response to water and ice rescue on Lake Koshkonong.

If firefighters also are EMTs—and most, such as Tollefson, are—the department requires those members-in-training to gather ambulance emergency skills along with training hours before they can graduate beyond “ridealong” status.

For instance, Lippincott said, on Tollefson’s hornet-sting call, she earned EMT training credits and department credit for assisting the man stung and also communicating with staff at Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville, where the man was transported for treatment.

New members including interns have tough tests to get through, and they do it in real time, Reed said.

“Everybody, whether they’re a chief or someone in training, has to go to their first fire sometime. Just because you’re an intern doesn’t mean you sit in the firehouse and wait until you’ve got experience. Heather understands she’s like anybody else here. She’s part of the department. She’s got to be ready to go whenever,” he said.

Although Milton is a fairly small city, it and its surrounding area see the fourth-highest fire-emergency call volume in Rock County.

The city also has a soon-to-be finished four-lane bypass and four manufacturers whose work involves production with natural gas, plastics and ethanol, which Reed called “targeted production facilities” with potentially volatile substances that require dozens more hours a year of special training.

“Milton is changing a lot from a public-safety perspective. It’s not as sleepy as you’d think. Everything about it is dynamic,” Reed said.

Tollefson referred to the third call of her shift, the one involving the man with the hornet sting, as “laid back, but a pretty good call.”

She would be busy for rest of her day catching up on reports, cleaning up and checking in the ambulance the department used on the hornet sting call, and doing pre-fire checks at businesses. That is, if she didn’t have to go out on another call.

“I’m as happy as I could be,” Tollefson said. “I love this work.”

From “Local firefighters learn dangers of hybrid vehicles when responding to crashes”  — You’ve probably seen more hybrid vehicles and even hybrid buses zipping around town lately.

And that means local firefighters are training on how the vehicles operate in case there’s a crash.

Thursday morning, there were shiny new green-friendly cars, lined up and ready for a spin.

But the vehicles weren’t at a car dealership; they were at Eau Claire Fire Station #9.

“With hybrid vehicles they have new technology which creates different issues for us,” said Eau Claire Fire and Rescue Lt. Bob Pratt.

Lt. Pratt showed firefighters and students from CVTC the ins and outs of the rides.

“Where the high voltage batteries are located, the high voltage cables, how they run within the motor itself, where the airbag systems are,” Lt. Pratt said.

Two handicapped-accessible vehicles, four hybrid cars and one hybrid city bus were all on loan this week for the training.

Although the cars cut down on gas, they do provide new dangers to firefighters responding to an emergency.

One of those dangers is how firefighters cut out a person trapped in a vehicle.

Lt. Pratt said the orange colored cables in hybrid engines have high voltage going through them.

“And if we were to cut those cables, there’s potential that you’re going to have a high voltage displacement. Which means you could potentially be electrocuted,” Lt. Pratt said.

He said hands-on experience for the firefighters means less fear when they respond to a crash.

“The more that they’re out there, the more there’s potential to be involved in accidents and that’s why we’re doing the training,” Lt. Pratt said.

The two handicap-accessible vehicles came from A and J Mobility, the hybrid cars came from Markquart Motors, Eau Claire Ford and Ken Vance Motors.

The hybrid bus came from Eau Claire Transit.

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