Firefighter Rookie Challenge tests limits of participants

2013-03-20T00:22:00Z 2013-09-17T06:24:41Z Firefighter Rookie Challenge tests limits of participantsRena Lesue-Smithey - Correspondent Daily Herald
March 20, 2013 12:22 am  • 

OREM -- Ever wanted to see if you could hack it in firefighter training? On Saturday, you may get your shot.

The public is invited to the Emergency Services Firefighter Rookie Challenge at Utah Valley University on Saturday. Participants will experience more than four hours of firefighter training, such as physical training, drills with equipment, search and rescue training and experience on the high-rise tower.

Although the challenge is intended for recruitment into the firefighter program, it is advertised as a way to see if participants "have what it takes" to be a firefighter. There are typically two rookie challenges every year, both spring and fall. Rilee Rhees of Ogden signed up for the challenge last fall.

"I knew before the rookie challenge that I wanted to go into the academy, but I wanted to get a taste for it beforehand," Rhees, 20, said. "The rookie challenge is set up paramilitary style and pushes you both mentally and physically."

Rhees enrolled in the Recruit Candidate Academy in January and is currently the only woman in a class of close to 20.

The rookie challenge's physical training portion includes a 1.5-mile run, push-ups, sit-ups and measurements and weight taken. Most drills are done at a run with equipment.

"The PT part was exhausting," Rhees said. "The academy includes a similar program, but it is designed to get you into shape."

The academy is a four-month program that teaches Firefighter I & II and Hazmat, and according to Rhees, it's the only academy in the state that has live burns in a two-story burn house.

"If you are interested in becoming a firefighter, this is the program you want to get into," said Rhees, who will be graduating in April.

"It's a good opportunity to experience a typical day in the RCA," said Debra Cloward, an aide for the emergency services department.

The academy prides itself on offering students "400 hours of classroom and 'fireground' training, plus an additional 300 hours of college-level prerequisite course work." The students in the program earn 16 academic credits through UVU.

"Successful completion of the RCA provides the certifications students need to qualify for firefighting duties, but it also covers or nearly covers the core requirements for some of our associate degrees," Cloward said. "Education is becoming a more and more important factor in hiring and promoting firefighters. We have a lot of veteran firefighters returning to school to better their chances for promotion. We offer two bachelor's degrees -- one in emergency care, which includes paramedics, and one in emergency management, which is entirely online and thus ideal for those with limited time."

The rookie challenge costs $30, or $41 if you would like an "I survived the Firefighter Rookie Challenge" T-shirt. To register, visit Registrants must be 18 or older, and the training takes place at 3131 Mike Jense Parkway in Provo, near the Provo Airport. For an information packet on programs on emergency services programs, email

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