Into the fire


For the Mirror

“Heroes made here” is the claim made via a large banner in the main bay of the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas.

An airman from Federal Way may or may not be a hero after graduating from a 13-week firefighter apprentice course, but he will have all of the tools to become one if circumstances ever call for it.

Ross Anderson, son of Brian and Cynthia Anderson of Federal Way, is at the beginning of what many who teach at the academy describe as a journey to become a military firefighter.

“Since I was a child, I’ve had dreams of being a firefighter,” said the 2002 graduate of Federal Way High School. “And I’ve always looked up to those people who actually accomplished those same dreams.”

He and his classmates at Goodfellow march to and from classes, where they put on full firefighter bunker gear with a self-contained breathing apparatus and pull or carry 100-pound dummies to safety, wade into fires with flames leaping above their heads and drag heavy fire hoses for 300 yards.

“My day starts at 4 a.m. when I wake up and usually doesn’t end until around 4:30 p.m. This course is so physically and mentally demanding that at the end of the day, all I want to do is sleep,” Anderson said.

By the end of the school, Anderson will be a certified firefighter, fully trained in fire protection fundamentals, emergency medical care, handling of hazardous materials and airport firefighting.

Before starting the apprentice course, Anderson and others are tested to see if they’re claustrophobic and if they can lift at least 140 pounds.

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