Friday, June 3, 2016

Oldest, youngest fire academy graduates share love of firefighting and serving others

Separated by space and time, it was the love of firefighting and a desire to serve others that brought together the oldest and youngest graduates of the TEEX Online Recruit Firefighter Academy.

Coming from different countries and different generations, Andrew Makey-Heindl, 18, from Orillia, Ontario, and Neil Summer, 63, from College Station, TX, shared an intense, 21-day hands-on, up-close-and-personal introduction into real-world firefighting and the brotherhood of firefighters during April.

Firefighting has been the goal for Makey-Heindl since he was a youngster, and as an 11th grader, he was able to spend five months at a fire station as part of a school coop program.  He occasionally went on calls with the fire department, and watched the operation from the sidelines. But he couldn’t wait until he could become a firefighter and join the team.  So when he graduated from high school in 2015, he got a job a Home Depot and began researching firefighting academies. TEEX and the Brayton Fire Training Field were at the top of his list. 

“The number of projects and the state-of-the-art facility meant I could get double the hands-on training I would get at home,” he said. 

He will resume his job at Home Depot and begin working as a volunteer firefighter when he returns to Canada.  He plans to begin working toward his EMT-Paramedic certification in the fall.  “My ultimate goal is to work at a fire station in the Greater Toronto Area, but any job in emergency services would be great,” he added.

Summer’s path to the Recruit Firefighter Academy took a bit longer. Originally from South Africa, he left home at 18 to work as a diver in the North Sea, and eventually worked as a geologist in the offshore oil & gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico, where he specialized in deepwater geohazards. He was well-acquainted with TEEX and Brayton Fire Training Field through marine firefighting and offshore survival classes he attended in the 1990s. When he lost his job in the oil & gas industry, he saw an opportunity to pursue his firefighter certification. 

Last fall, he began volunteering at the South Brazos Volunteer Fire Department, but realized he needed to be a certified firefighter to fully participate and serve his community. A Director and Founder of Ecolyse, Inc., Summer says this is one way he can “pay back” his community by working as a volunteer firefighter and also with FEMA in emergency response. 

“I am highly impressed with this organization and the instructors. They cram a lot into 21 days,” Summer said. “I took it seriously and have been exercising every day since October.” 

Thanks to his preparation, he said he had no problem with the physical demands of the “boot camp.”

Both Makey-Heindl and Summer would agree:  No matter your age, you can pursue your dream to do something you love.

NOTE: If you are interested in training to become a certified firefighter, you can learn more about the TEEX Firefighter Recruit Academy.