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Firefighter completes elite training course

A Brookhaven firefighter recently joined an elite group who havesuccessfully completed the Smoke Divers class at the State FireAcademy.

Stephen Davis, with almost three years service to the BrookhavenFire Department, was one of only four firefighters to complete thegrueling one-week course in April. Fifteen firefighters from acrossthe state began the class.

“The first day, we lost half after lunch,” Davis said.

In the course, participants go through an intense series ofmental and physical firefighting-related evolutions, or tasks,Davis said. The tasks and pace are designed to test firefighters’endurance.

“You don’t think you can go through any more, but you can,”Davis said.

At the end of each day, firefighters run penalty laps. Thenumber of laps is determined by how long it took a firefighter tocomplete a task compared to the ideal time allotted.

“Penalty laps are good. That means you made it through thatday,” Davis said.

Timed drills are used to determine partners for the next day’sactivities.

“Nobody finished by themselves. You’ve got a partner,” Davissaid.

Capt. James Dykes, Davis’ supervisor at Station No. 3, recalledhelping Davis prepare for the smoke diver class. Training includedworking on timed drills to become faster, repelling exercises andother firefighting tasks.

“That was every day for months,” Dykes said.

Brookhaven Fire Chief Paul Cartwright said Capt. Marty Beesonand Capt. Larry Gibson, who retired recently, have also passed thesmoke diver course. The chief compared smoke diver graduates toNavy SEALs, that military service branch’s special forcesunits.

“It’s an elite group of guys,” Cartwright said. “A lot of peopletry out for it and can’t pass it.”

For the fire department, Cartwright said smoke divers gaininformation that can be brought back and used to help furthereducate other firefighters. He indicated that Davis completing thesmoke diver class would be an asset to the department.

“He worked hard for it, and we are awfully proud of him,”Cartwright said.