Cheney Free Press -

By Lee Hughes
Staff reporter 

West Plains agencies hold combined fire training academy


Last updated 10/3/2019 at 8:58am

CHENEY — The West Plains will soon have a host of new firefighters to serve on the area’s four fire departments, and for the first time, all are being trained together in one location.

Firefighter recruits from Airway Heights, Cheney, Spokane County Fire District 10 are all learning the firefighting trade with recruits from Spokane County Fire District 3 at its training facility on Presley Drive in Cheney. They are undertaking a major commitment: three months of intensive evening and weekend training at the West Plains Recruit Academy.

District 3 Chief Cody Rohrbach said there are multiple benefits to co-training across, including breeding familiarity and trust between departments and integrating the way each department approaches a fire.

All West Plains fire departments have mutual aid and mutual response agreements that dictate how they support one another in an emergency.

“We all have equal training standards,” Rohrbach said of the co-training.

Training at the academy will focus primarily on structure fires, hazardous materials and wildland firefighting, Rohrbach said. Medical training will occur later.

During the class, 41 recruits will receive five tiers of training in basic firefighting subjects including fire behavior and control, hose handling, ventilation and search and rescue. They’ll even spend time at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s Volpentest HAMMER Federal Training Facility.

Rohrbach said that not all who start the training will finish; attrition rates vary. All recruits are volunteers, and most have day jobs, so the roughly twice-per-week evening classes and occasional weekend hands-on practicals make the training a demanding effort. And it only continues as full-fledged firefighter volunteers. Some realize the obligation is too much and walk away.

“It’s a big-time commitment,” Rohrbach said. “But we are committed to making everyone successful.”

Those who successfully run the gauntlet will earn the right to be called firefighter at a graduation ceremony at Medical Lake High School on Wednesday, Jan. 8.

Lee Hughes can be reached at


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