Past Rochester Citizens Fire Academy participants pose for a photo after using tools for a car rescue.

Past Rochester Citizens Fire Academy participants pose for a photo after using tools for a car rescue.

Photo provided by the Rochester Fire Department

Citizens Fire Academy returns

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published August 24, 2022


ROCHESTER — The Rochester Fire Department is taking registrations for its third annual Citizens Fire Academy, which will begin Sept. 13.

The academy — which will be held 6-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Nov. 15 at the fire station — is designed to give Rochester residents a greater understanding of how the department operates.

“We got into the Citizens Fire Academy a few years ago for several reasons. The primary one is to try to help raise awareness of safety within the community, and we felt that what better way to do that than to go ahead and put citizens into the world of firefighters, so that they have an understanding of the training that the firefighters do, and we hope that the training will result in more knowledge for our residents in regards to fire safety,” Rochester Fire Chief John Cieslik said. “If we talk about how fires start and how we have to extinguish them, we’re hoping that the citizens will pay a little more attention to some of the safety hazards that might be around their house or around the houses they visit for friends and family.”

Rochester Fire Marshal John Shepp said the department offered the program prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and decided to bring it back this year based on the positive feedback from participants.

“The program is open to people who live or work in the greater Rochester area,” Shepp said.

Shepp, who is coordinating the program, said the objective of the academy is not to train and certify individuals, but rather to produce better-informed residents. He said academy participants will learn the history of the Fire Department and what it takes to become a firefighter. They will tour the fire station and its training campus; ride on a firetruck; experience firefighting tasks; become CPR certified; learn first-aid skills; tour the fire/police dispatch center; wear firefighter gear; learn to use a fire extinguisher and to extinguish a small, controlled fire; watch demonstrations of different fire apparatuses; experience zero visibility in the fire training building and operate a thermal imaging camera; use the Jaws of Life; and learn about special operations — including technical rescue and hazardous materials.

“We basically give our participants a taste of what we do at the Fire Department,” said Shepp.

“They can actually extinguish fire with extinguishers and use the rescue tools to cut apart a car, so there’s different things they would be able to experience hands-on that firefighters do on a daily basis,” said Cieslik.

The academy, which will conclude Nov. 15, is open to all who live or work in the greater Rochester area. Applicants must be a minimum of 18 years old, have never been convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor, and have no misdemeanor convictions within the last two years.

“We average around 18-22 people in the classes that we’ve done, and we’re hoping that we’ll have that amount of interested people again,” Cieslik said.

For more information or to register, contact Shepp at or at (248) 651-4470.