The Santa Cruz County Regional EMT/Fire Academy recently graduated 16 recruits from the first of its two-part training program.

Trainees from the Nogales, Rio Rico and Tubac fire departments/districts gathered at Rio Rico Fire Station No. 2 on April 14 to mark the completion of the academy’s emergency medical technician training. Now, over the next several months, recruits will work to complete the academy’s second unit: fire training.

“The most exciting, most intense part will be the live burn,” Nogales Fire Department Battalion Chief Christian Renteria told the NI Thursday, describing a fire simulation built into the curriculum. “It’s going to be the first opportunity for them to feel the heat, to have real live obscurity.”

Since graduating last month, the recruits have continued their studies – focusing in on incident command systems, emergency vehicle operation and basic wildland fire certification.

Renteria said the busy schedule is part of the plan. By working toward various certifications now, the recruits won’t have to request extra time off for those classes once they’re on the job. The regional academy pays its recruits to attend – a model meant to allow students to focus fully on the training process.

“They're married to the academy right now,” Renteria added.

A completed graduation is slated for August, after the fire training program concludes.

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