Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Fire Academy seeks regional emphasis


Last updated 8/8/2019 at 8:16am

The West Plains Fire Academy is once again accepting applications for new volunteer and career firefighters, and local fire officials say it’s hoping to foster a new, more regional focus.

Spokane County Fire District 10 Division Chief of Recruitment & Retention Deb Dodson said the academy is seeking aspiring firefighters — particularly ones that live in the district for which they are applying.

“People think they can’t be firefighters, but they can,” she said. “They can be farmers, truck drivers, teachers, anyone with an interest.”

Potential firefighters are required to submit an application and a driving abstract, be a minimum of 18 years of age and have a GED or high school diploma. They also must pass a medical exam and a physical agility test and undergo an interview process.

Recruitment for volunteers has been waning across the country, and the West Plains is no exception, Dodson said.

The greatest impediment to most volunteer firefighters is the time commitment, District 10’s Deputy Fire Chief of Operations Orlando Sandoval said. About 160 hours of training are required to respond to structure fires, and most volunteers firefighters keep their day jobs, heading to work at the fire station in the evenings or on days off.

But according to Sandoval, once they get in, they tend to stick.

“Once we get them in here, they get the bug and they really enjoy it,” he said. “We have the best job in the world.”

Dodson said many people get into firefighting out of a desire to help their communities, and stay once they realize the impact they can make on every single call.

“It’s exciting,” Sandoval said. “It’s everything you dreamt of being a kid and you’re living it.”

The West Plains Fire Academy has been in place for more than a decade, and over the span of a free 16-week course teaches people to respond to a variety of emergencies. Until recently, the largest participants in the West Plains academy have been Spokane County Fire District 10 and Airway Heights Fire Department, but that may soon change.

Reports indicate that Spokane County Fire District 3, which stands to annex the Medical Lake Fire Department per approval by voters Aug. 6, may become more involved in the operations of the fire academy.

District 3 Deputy Chief Bill Dennstaedt said the district regularly participates in joint trainings and exercises but has not entered into any formal agreements and no official decisions have been made regarding the academy.

The organizations will meet Thursday, Aug. 8, to discuss more cooperative regional involvement.

Those who are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter but are hesitant or have questions

“should just come down to the station and talk to us,” Dodson said. “Just ask.”

Additional information can be found at and

Shannen Talbot can be reached at


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