MAGNA, Utah (ABC4 News) – How do you train to become a firefighter? It’s an intense career, that requires fighting real fires before you start the job, and you get to see what it’s like. This edition of Behind the Badge takes you inside the Unified Fire Authority’s fire academy happening now in Salt Lake County.

Running into a burning building doesn’t just happen all at once. Before firefighters race to the scene of a raging fire, each of them goes through extensive training.

Right now, Unified Fire Authority in Salt Lake County is holding its winter-spring fire academy for dozens of new recruits.

At the UFA training center in Magna, some are fighting fires for the first time.

“You see it in movies and that, but until you’re in there and you see how much smoke there is and limited visibility, that’s the one that got me,” said Brian Lantzy, UFA fire recruit.
38-year-old recruit Brian Lantzy just switched careers to become a firefighter and calls it both exciting and tough.

“As long as you’re physically fit, and you have some drive for you to do it, it’s not bad. I mean, I go home I’m sore, and I’m not the youngest guy out there so I feel it,” said Lantzy.

Young recruit Gabe Ortez has done it before, previously fighting wildfires with UFA. For him, making the switch gives him a better way to give back.

“I just want to be able to make a change in someone’s life and be able to help someone on their worst day,” said Gabe Ortez, UFA fire recruit.

That eager attitude is something UFA instructors tell ABC4 News they’re looking for. During their seventh week of training, recruits are learning how to perform search and rescue with a live fire inside a burning building, sifting through smoke and flames. They said it requires teamwork, coordinating, problem-solving, and extinguishing the fire safely.

“It’s just kind of building blocks so we can get them to where they go out and do the job as soon as they’re out of here,” said Tommy Miller, Fire Training Instructor, UFA Ladder Company 106.

Instructor Tommy Miller said recruits will complete the course over the next two and half months and says it’s crucial they ensure each one succeeds.

“One of these recruits is going to come out and be my partner when I go into house fires, and when I go into medical calls one of these recruits is going to be with me.” said Miller.

That’s why they get in as much training as they can. So, if that first call is a major fire, recruits first learned how to handle it in the academy.

Fire training isn’t just something for new firefighters. The Unified Fire Training Division Chief tells ABC4 News just to make sure they keep their skills sharp; all UFA firefighters go back and complete the same training two or three times a year.