At our bi-monthly regular meeting on Monday, February 15, 2021 one of our newest members was promoted from a probationary firefighter to regular “Black Helmet” status. We’re proud to announce Firefighter Charles “Chas” Willis, Jr. successfully completed all requirements and was awarded a “Black Helmet”.
To gain this achievement, all new members must complete the 135-hour Firefighter I course offered by the Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute (MFRI), University of Maryland. At the same time, probationary members undergo a 24-hour in-house training regimen supervised by one of our junior officers.
Typically, the 24-hour “Pre-Basic” training is completed in short-order. We want to get a new member riding on emergency calls as soon as possible. Once this training is in place, the probationary member is issued a yellow helmet, denoting their probationary status. In this capacity, the member works directly under the supervision of officers and senior firefighters. They are not allowed to work unsupervised. This period provides the opportunity for officers and regular firefighters to observe the probationary member in action, evaluate their abilities, potential skills, and demeanor in emergency situations. It allows the probationary member the opportunity to build confidence in themselves, and the ability for our officers and firefighters to gain confidence in the probationary member. Once Firefighter I is successfully completed and all the paperwork is in-hand, and pending the approval by the Fire Chief, the member is eligible for promotion to regular or “Black Helmet” firefighter status.
Firefighter I is a critical first step in the development of a firefighter. It is the introductory class to the fire service which provides the basic knowledge & skills every firefighter needs to be successful. It provides the foundation needed to take subsequent MFRI classes for a firefighter’s professional development and possible advancement to become a Fire Officer.
As previously stated, the course is 135 hours in length. There are MFRI satellite training centers in every region around the State of Maryland. The activities are centralized by region with facilities and equipment available to facilitate training. Personnel from companies within the region serviced by that training center typically travel there. The closest one to Chestertown is the Upper Eastern Shore Training Center outside of Centreville, near the Maryland State Police Barracks on U.S. 301. In Chas’s case, he had to miss a required class needed to complete the course. As no other classes were soon to be offered at the Centreville facility, he needed to travel intrastate to complete the class. This required his traveling to the North East Regional Training Center, located on the grounds of Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County. That is just over an hour away.
To help us celebrate his achievement, we invited Chas’s parents, Charles & Cathy, to stop by and present him with his hard-won Black Helmet. Monday also happened to be Chas’s birthday. To help him celebrate that milestone, cake was available to all in attendance.
Congratulations on becoming a Black Helmet Firefighter, Chas! And… Happy Birthday!