What’s it like to be a fire academy training instructor? We interviewed retired Battalion Chief and full-time Fire Academy Coordinator, Andy Densmore, to learn all about life as a teacher at Allan Hancock Academy in Lompoc, California.
HBO: How long have you been part of the Allan Hancock Fire Academy (AHFA) family?
AD: I’ve been associated with AHFA since the early 80’s. While serving as a full-time firefighter, I worked at AHFA as a California State Fire Training Instructor in several disciplines. I’m currently the AHFA Coordinator.
HBO: Would you consider the fire academy the foundation of the job?
AD: Yes, especially our Allan Hancock College Fire Academy. Seventeen and half weeks, Monday thru Friday, 7am – 6pm, Firefighter fitness, basic and advanced Firefighter skills and training.
HBO: What inspired you to be a fire training instructor?
AD: Throughout my 30-year career as a professional firefighter, I tried to stay at the top of my game through training. When I’d learn new skills or techniques, I couldn’t wait to get back to the department and share what I’d learned. That enthusiasm for sharing knowledge and skills grew into larger roles in department training and eventually the promotion to Battalion Chief and Training Officer.
HBO: Do you feel working full-time as a Firefighter while working as an AHFA Instructor kept you current on training techniques?
AD: Absolutely, both current and skilled.
HBO: Every instructor has a different teaching style. Is yours paramilitary, laid back, or somewhere in between?
AD: There’s a time and place for all of that. Though our program begins in a very militaristic fashion, cadets can earn the respect of the cadre through performance, attention to detail, and adherence to procedures. While my personal teaching style encourages interaction and participation, deviations from accepted practices and procedures take us quickly back to basics.
HBO: What can a probie expect during the first week of fire training?
AD: Indoctrination: The importance of (and the insistence on) attention to detail, loyalty, pride, enthusiasm, strong work ethic, and a commitment to providing the highest level of service possible.
HBO: What training exercise is the most terrifying/challenging for most probies?
AD: SCBA Confidence Exercises and Firefighter Survival
HBO: What advice would give to a probie who absolutely hits their limit?
AD: You might not be adequately prepared for this. Either press on to finish your objective or tap out and reconsider your choice of profession.
HBO: Have you ever instructed a probie who you thought would never see graduation day, but he/she persevered?
AD: I’ve seen improvement in cadets, significant enough to have earned them the right to graduate our State Accredited Regional Fire Academy, on several occasions.
HBO: What advice would you give a probie on his/her first year working in a firehouse?
AD: Do what you’re told, remain humble and respectful, work your ass off, strive to prove that you deserve the position.
HBO: Did you instantly feel camaraderie the day you entered your own training over 30 years ago? Now that you’re a retired Battalion Chief, do you still feel like you are part of a brotherhood?
AD: Absolutely and absolutely. Back in the late 70’s we were assigned our position on the engine right away and we were expected to perform as part of the company from day one. I was lucky enough to be a part of a smaller municipal department and felt accepted right away. I feel the same enthusiasm for the Fire Service today, as I did on my first day on the job and I’ll always consider myself a Firefighter.
Thank you for your service, Chief Densmore. Cheers to you and all the probies you’ve guided along the way!