Volunteer students train to be firefighters

Recruit Kyle Liceaga, junior in Communications, attempts to position a ladder for his first time at the Illinois Fire Service Institute at 11 Gert Drive in Champaign on April 22. Beck Diefenbach

Recruit Kyle Liceaga, junior in Communications, attempts to position a ladder for his first time at the Illinois Fire Service Institute at 11 Gert Drive in Champaign on April 22. Beck Diefenbach

By Beck Diefenbach

The recruit locks his leg into the ladder, and then leans back so that his spine is parallel to the ground at 20 feet in the air. This “leg lock” is part of the training for the new recruits of the Carroll Fire Protection District, an entirely volunteer fire department located in northern Urbana.

Kyle Liceaga, junior in LAS, has been interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter since visiting a station in his hometown with his friend’s dad. He joined the Carroll department in February and wants to continue for as long as he can.

“I just really want to save lives,” he said. “I think firefighters are highly respectable people.”

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    The current volunteer class consists of four new recruits, all of whom are either college or high school students; two are students at the University. Because Carroll is the closest volunteer fire department to campus, much of its staff is comprised of current or former University students.

    This large student base helps keep the Carroll Fire Department running, especially with recruitment at a shortfall recently. Carroll Fire Chief Steve Thuney is very grateful for the people who have volunteered from the University.

    “I think all of the departments in the area are trying to build relationships with the University of Illinois,” Thuney said. “Because they are a tremendous resource for our community.”

    With many students staying in the Champaign-Urbana area for only four years, the useful life of a volunteer can sometimes be only one to two years.

    “It would be nicer to have some age and some experience on the department,” Thuney said. “Right now, most of our volunteers have less than five years of experience.”

    Before they can gain any experience, these recruits are training and learning the basics of being a firefighter. From learning knots, climbing ladders and operating a hose, these fire students have awhile before they can get the firefighter’s badge.

    “The people that are doing the training are very knowledgeable,” said Chris Tuck, freshman in LAS. “I think they are very glad to see people coming (to Carroll) and they are glad to be teaching it.”

    Every May, Carroll loses volunteers who are graduating and moving on. Some of the former firefighters continue volunteering elsewhere. Others never pick up a hose again. The current recruit class of the Carroll Volunteer Fire Department appears determined to serve its community.

    “I want to join the department at least until I graduate, maybe a semester afterwards,” Liceaga said. “So I can do a good job for the community and try to do my part.”