Firefighters bring intensive, out-of-state training program to Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Wayne Township firefighters brought an intensive program from Georgia to Indiana in an effort to offer local firefighters access to additional training that is expected to make a difference when it counts. Fox59 got an exclusive look at who is involved, and the possible impact of this training on local families.

Local firefighters created the Indiana Smoke Divers Association to bring an intensive training program to Indiana that they believe will better prepare local firefighters in the most intensive conditions. The program certification is not state recognized, but it is well respected among firefighters nationwide.

The training started on Sunday, and it will continue through Friday. At least 60 hours of training has been promised, and four firefighters have already dropped out. The program includes cardio training and skill building. The firefighters take on examples of real-life scenarios like a building collapse.

“Your body is torn down and worn so it’s a different feel,” said Adam Westbrook, an instructor who has gone through the program. He is also a firefighter with the Cobb County Fire Department in Georgia.

“In the state of Indiana, we feel there is a need for this level of training,” said Matt Stewart, who is behind the creation of the Indiana Smoke Divers Association. He is also the deputy chief of operations of the Wayne Township Fire Department.

“Just giving it everything we got,” said Carl Wisnieski, a La Porte firefighter, who signed up for the program. “There’s nothing else I would rather do in life.”

More than a dozen Wayne Township Firefighters have passed the course and received the smoke diver certification after multiple trips to Georgia in recent years. Many of them are now acting as trainers for Indiana’s first program. They claim many firefighters use their vacation time and their own money to participate which can be an added burden if they have to travel out of state.

“We always say we make good firefighters better. It’s pushing them to that next level,” said David Rhodes, another instructor and a battalion chief with the Atlanta Fire Department.

The certification is not recognized in Indiana or Georgia, but the firefighters involved are also attempting that feat.

Firefighters with La Porte, Greenwood, the Indianapolis Airport and Wayne Township are participating in this program.

“It really changes how you operate as a person and a firefighter. If they make it halfway through, they don’t get the paper from us that says they completed the class, but they got three days of training they can’t find anywhere,” said Stewart.

Several local firefighters will travel to Georgia next month for another opportunity to gain the certification.

More information about the Indiana Smoke Diver Association can be found online.

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