GAYVILLE — The Gayville Fire Department is one step closer to 100 percent certification.
Eight Gayville firefighters recently completed the South Dakota Certified Firefighter Course, bringing the department's total of certified members to 18 out of 23.
"This class just certifies them and gives them more training," said firefighter David Rabe, who instructed the course along with firefighter Tom Slowey. "It's about 100 hours roughly of classroom training, and then there's some practicals that they do. It's pretty intense."
The practical elements include everything from ropes and knots to rescue and extrication.
"It's some of the basic stuff, so it gives them a heads-up of what's happening on the fire ground to reduce liability and increase safety," Rabe said.
The firefighters who just completed the course are Assistant Chief Wayne Huber, Assistant Chief Lonny Lee, Kent Buckman, Brian Emmick, Nick Huber, Greg Pirak, Robb Price and Sharon Rolfs.
They said they found the course — which took place over a period of two years — to be very beneficial.
"I'm sure I have a much better understanding of being on the fire department," Pirak said. "I've been on the fire department more than nine years now, and it was a very good way to learn some new techniques that are known nationwide, but we just didn't know because we hadn't gone through some of the training."
"Hopefully I got enough out of it to be an effective firefighter for the district, and to be a better team member for my fellow firefighters so that we can all be safe," Buckman added.
Huber said he found the section on building structure to be one of the most interesting of the course.
"Buildings are built differently these days, so they last longer," he said. "They used to use bloom framing, but they don't now because it goes up faster than these buildings these days."
"I enjoyed the search and rescue," Buckman said. "That's where we either go into a smoke-filled environment or a pseudo-smoke-filled environment. I thought it was challenging to go into an unknown area, and not have any idea or visibility, and have to carry out a search with a team member."
The firefighters had a chance to put these skills to practical use last Saturday when a controlled burn of a house took place near the intersections of Kingsbury and Brown streets in Gayville.
"(It gave) them experience in dealing with heat, temperature change, visibility and everything else inside the building," Rabe said. "It went really well. There were no issues with anyone getting hurt. We had a good, clean, fun training session for everybody."
Eight members of the Vermillion Fire Department took part, as well.
Because the Gayville Fire Department is all-volunteer, state certification is not required. However, it is increasing, Rabe said.
"It is evolving around it a lot more, that volunteer fire departments are becoming 100 percent certified," he said.
This is especially true for smaller fire departments.
"In Yankton and Vermillion, within the first year, their people are taking the firefighter certification class. It's required that they do that," Rabe said.
In Gayville's case, more of the members are willing to take the course, which will bring the total up to 20 out of 23 members.
That's a good thing, Pirak said.
"We're a volunteer department. We don't do this every day," he said. "We end up being at one, two or three structure fires every year, whether they're our department or mutual aid with other departments, and the training is incredibly important because we only get so much hands-on experience. So we absolutely need to continue to train to be comfortable with what we're doing."
"It gives everybody a sense of safety, and knowing what each other can and can't do. It helps everybody stay on the same page," Rabe added.
Rabe and Slowey extended their congratulations to all the firefighters who successfully completed the course.