Brothers Put Firefighting Skills to Test for the City

WHEELING – Despite years of firefighting and paramedic work experience, two local brothers spent Monday going through the rigors of basic training at the Wheeling Fire Department’s training tower at the north end of Wheeling Island Monday.

While Dennis VanKirk of Bellaire and Teddy VanKirk of St. Clairsville have nearly 24 years of combined firefighting and paramedic work experience between them, they are still required to go through several weeks of classroom and hands-on training to join the Wheeling Fire Department, according to Assistant Chief Jim Blazier. The additional training is necessary to familiarize the new recruits with the department’s equipment and crew, Blazier said.

“We do a lot of classroom and hands-on training during their indoctrination training period,” said Blazier.

He said while training periods for new firefighters typically last about six weeks, the time frame for the VanKirk brothers will last about four weeks because of their previous work.

“Because they have experience with a professional department, we will be running them through some basis drills just to get a feel for how things work here in Wheeling,” said Blazier.

He said despite the brothers’ prior experience, it is still import for them to learn about equipment specifics and to spend time working side-by-side with other members of the department.

“We’re just running some basic skills so they’re used to working with the guys, and the guys are used to working with them,” Blazier added.

He said later in the training process they will be working on “scenario-based” drills – as if they are attacking a real structure fire.

“Gaining water supply, laying attack lines, laddering the building and ventilating” are a few of the typical practice procedures they will be working with, according to Blazier.

Both Dennis and Teddy VanKirk said they started out as young volunteer firefighters in the small town of Clarington. Dennis said he went on to work for the Bellaire and Neffs Fire Departments for nearly 15 years before deciding to apply with the Wheeling Fire Department. His younger brother, Teddy, said he decided to follow in his brother’s footsteps. He also worked for the Neffs Fire Department for nearly nine years. They said they are excited about training with the Wheeling Fire Department.