ST. JOHN — Firefighters from Lake, Porter and Newton counties completed intensive training and are now graduates of District 1 Lake Country Recruit Fire Academy.

Based out of the St. John Fire Department training site and firehouse, Joe Martin is the lead instructor for District 1 Lake County Academy. He is also a lieutenant with the Griffith Fire Department.

"On the first day of this six-month training we started with 54 people and 36 graduated," Martin said. "We let the students know that they are representing their departments and they need to be compassionate and caring."

The firefighters get certified in different categories and they take stills tests for hazardous materials and a skills test for firefighters including extending hose pines, putting gear on properly and searching a building.

"But they must pass a skills test first," Martin said. "The classes are important in what we are teaching but we want to instill in them that they need to be there for other people in their time of need."

Besides classroom learning, the firefighters take field trips and visit other departments utilized for training including Gary and Crown Point.

The training includes four hours a day on Tuesdays and Thursdays and an 8-hour skills day on Saturdays. For six months the students put in 201 hours of skill and 157 hours in the classroom and they also complete online classes.

"This is a huge commitment," Martin said. "They have homework to do, as well. If they finish the course you know that they are committed and driven to be a part of this."

Martin said men and women complete the classes.

"Ig you have the heart we the instructors believe you will make firefighters stronger," Martin said. "It's great to be a part of this process."

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Community Coordinator

Annette is Porter County Community Coordinator for The Times. She has been with the paper for 20 years. A resident of Hobart, she graduated from Purdue University with degrees in English and German.