Part of being a successful firefighter is the ability to control fear—and rely on skills that must be constantly renewed and sharpened.
An Oak Ridge firefighter recently completed one of the most grueling courses designed to teach survival techniques, and he will be training other Oak Ridge firefighters soon.
Thirty-nine firefighters from several departments qualified to begin this punishing six-day course, but only 12 of those finished the class. The Georgia Smoke Diver course, conducted by the Georgia Fire Academy and the Georgia Smoke Diver Association, is a six-day, 60-hour program designed for experienced firefighters who want realistic training in skills including firefighter rescue, thermal imaging, teamwork, discipline, and situational awareness.
One of the 12 firefighters who finished the class was Steve London of the Oak Ridge Fire Department. London holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee in environmental studies, and he is a firefighter/paramedic for the City of Oak Ridge.
“I was amazed and excited when Steve told me he had applied for the prestigious Georgia Smoke Diver Class,” Oak Ridge Fire Department Chief Darryl Kerley said. “Firefighters from all over the nation travel to Georgia for the firefighter safety and survival class, and we are so proud to have an Oak Ridge firefighter apply and complete the class.”
After completing the class, candidates become certified smoke divers and receive their smoke diver number. London became Smoke Diver #901.
Candidates had to memorize the Smoke Diver’s Creed:
“If I persist, if I continue to try, if I continue to charge forward, I will succeed. I will not hear those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious. The prizes of life are at the end of each journey, not near the beginnings, and it is not given to me to know how many steps are necessary in order to reach my goal. I will never consider defeat, and I will erase from my vocabulary such words as quit, cannot, unable, impossible, failure, and retreat, for these are the words of fools and cowards. When my thoughts beckon my tired body homeward, I will resist the temptation to depart. I will try again. I will make one more attempt to close with victory, and if that fails, I will make another. When others cease their struggle, then mine will begin, and my harvest will be full.”
“It is more than just a saying that we had to memorize,” London said. “It’s a way of thinking, a mindset that you have to truly believe in to be a smoke diver.”
London said he had started working out and studying to prepare for the class months before traveling to Georgia. He said the week was challenging, both mentally and physically, but incredibly rewarding. He said candidates got up early each day, wore full firefighter gear during exercises, and consumed 4,500-5,500 calories a day.
“Georgia Smoke Diver is more of an experience than a class,” London said. “I’m a better, more confident firefighter and person for having completed it.”
Kerley said London will be teaching and sharing with Oak Ridge firefighters the valuable lessons learned during the grueling 60-hour class.
For more information, contact Kerley at (865) 755-5364.