Updates coming to Wisconsin firefighter training standards

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Nearly 80 percent of Wisconsin’s fire departments are made of up volunteer firefighters according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Now, the standards for training professional and volunteer firefighters in the state of Wisconsin will see some changes in the coming months.

Starting on October 1, the new standards will remove a 2 year grace period to train new firefighters and it will also eliminate a one-year grace period for fire officers to obtain more comprehensive training. The new rule will also allow departments to provide on-the-job training for new members to assist in non-hazardous situations. It will also require drivers to go through 30 hours of additional training to drive and operate the fire trucks. According to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, these changes will get Wisconsin Firefighter training up to OSHA standards set at the federal level.

“Wisconsin has lacked neighboring states and even federal standards so I think the training is good and once it’s out there people are going to be trained and it’s safety in mind because if you want to operate a vehicle like this you need to know how so I think that is a positive thing," said Mark Schwartz the Emergency Services Coordinator at CVTC. "It’s going to be some growing pains getting people through it but in the end it’s for the better.”

Similar to many technical colleges around the state, Chippewa Valley Technical College takes on the responsibility of training all of the professional and volunteer firefighters in the region.

With firefighters needing additional training in a shorter period of time, Schwartz says CVTC will be offering additional class times to keep up with the demand. “Initially it’s going to be a lot of training right away to get everybody done and then after that it’s just going to, should go back as needed but it’s still going to be a lot higher frequency now that it’s a requirement," Schwartz said.

In Western Wisconsin where most communities rely on volunteer fire departments, the new standards are going to hit volunteers especially hard. “It is an issue, especially on the volunteer side of things, I’m a volunteer firefighter myself so any other classes that I would have to take is just going to be more time away from my family or my home life or anything else," Schwartz said. "On the career side of things it’s still more training they are going to have to send their people to so that’s more overtime cost and trying to get more people called in while these people are at class.”

Right now, CVTC only offers certain courses a few times a year, but starting this fall they will step it up to a couple of times a month.