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Fire dept. kicks off new Citizen Fire Academy

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Professional makeup artists were there. So were gun shop owners, city workers, personal bodyguards and elderly couples.

Thursday was the start of another Gwinnett County Citizen Fire Academy, the bi-annual opportunity for any and everybody in the county to see what professional firefighters go through every day.

"We want to give people awareness of what's going on in Gwinnett County, and how we set ourselves apart as a first-class fire department. What it takes," said Fire Inspector Jeremey Webb, the county's supervisor for the Community Risk Reduction-Education Section. "The hard work, from recruits training to the simple stuff like investigations, inspections, a little bit of everything. The business services side, everything."

Over a 12-week span, interested participants will visit different fire stations throughout the county, learn CPR and fire safety, and participate in real drills at the fire academy.

Perhaps best of all, though, at the end of the course they'll actually get to ride along on that big red truck and respond to real emergencies with firefighters.

"I want to learn what they actually go through," said Colleen Valentine, a class member and makeup artist by trade. "I want to know the codes and see what actually happens behind the scenes."

Registration is free, and Webb said members often stay involved in the program after their initial classes through a CFA alumni association.

In front of 24 participants at the 13th edition of the Citizen Fire Academy on Thursday, Gwinnett County Fire Chief Bill Myers stressed that the program is also about the department learning from those it serves.

"Now if you tell a big ol' firefighter that he should tie a know a certain way, that probably won't help," Myers said, laughing. "But we alway s want to hear what we can do to serve you better."