Last year’s Citizens Fire Academy participants pose for a photo following a hands-on activity.

Last year’s Citizens Fire Academy participants pose for a photo following a hands-on activity.

Photo provided by the Rochester Fire Department

Citizens Fire Academy returns for second year in Rochester

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published August 20, 2019


ROCHESTER — The Rochester Fire Department invites the public to participate in its second annual Citizens Fire Academy, which begins Sept. 3.

The academy — which will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. weekly on Thursdays through Nov. 5 at the fire station — is designed to give Rochester residents a greater understanding of how the department operates.

“The academy is designed to give the general population a basic understanding of the jobs we perform in the fire service — how we’ve gone from just fighting fires to becoming an all hazards problem-solving kind of an organization,” said Rochester Fire Marshal John Shepp. “We do everything from firefighting, to EMS, to dealing with car accidents, to rescuing ducks out of storm drains.”

Rochester Fire Chief John Cieslik said the department offered the program for the first time last year and decided to bring it back based on the positive feedback from participants.

“The reason why we decided to do it again was because of the comments we received from those who attended last year. When we sat back and evaluated the results of the class, we were pleased with the message getting to our residents about what the Fire Department is, how it functions, what its capabilities are, some of its needs are for the future, and how better our residents can be prepared to take care of themselves in an emergency, or to be able to help with an emergency that might arise within the community,” Cieslik 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 fire truck, 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 extinguish a small controlled fire, watch demonstrations of different fire apparatuses, experience zero visibility in the fire training building, operate a thermal imaging camera, use the Jaws of Life, and learn about special operations — including technical rescue and hazardous materials.

“We want to try and expose them to just about everything we encounter in the fire service,” Shepp said.

The academy, which will conclude Nov. 5, 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.

“This is certainly a great opportunity to do a little bit of hands-on investigation into what it takes to be a responder, and what you’re spending your tax dollars on,” Cieslik added.

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