Norwood Fire Chief John Bockrath completed a six-month Firefighter 1 (FF1) academy for his department. With the final testing occurring over the weekend, Bockrath said the department is in even better shape, and state officials are impressed by the local talent. 

Bockrath began the FF1 academy six months ago, and volunteer firefighters spent one night each week, plus Saturdays, working in the fire house. Then, Bockrath used smoke machines to have firefighters crawl around the bay and perform rescues — which he said went very well, only the department was not getting actual heat or fire. 

For four days last week, though, things got more intense. The state Division of Fire Prevention and Control was on site for live fire training and testing with a trailer. 

The first three days were spent practicing what Norwood volunteers had learned, and Saturday culminated with the tests. 

The state representatives lit actual fires inside the training trailer, so firefighters could demonstrate their proficiency in various techniques. 

“The Firefighter 1 certification is the first level of training the state recognizes and prepares the firefighters for all aspects of structural firefighting, which includes life safety, search and rescue, fire extinguishment, hose deployment, ventilation, ladders, overhaul and Hazmat — just to name a few,” Bockrath said.

He said he felt incredibly proud when all 10 members of the academy program passed. State officials were also impressed, since it’s not always the case that all members pass the FF1 certification on the first try. Bockrath said even some “career” departments don’t have such success. 

When firefighters don’t pass the FF1 test, they have to wait 30 days before attempting to try again. The state only gives three chances for the FF1 certification. 

Bockrath added the state is pushing for all firefighters to be certified as FF1s. He said it’s an ongoing certification that needs renewed every two years with continuing education. 

Bockrath told The Norwood Post that the newly certified FF1s are important for the community. Now added is a greater level of protection for the Town of Norwood and all the residents of the district. FF1 is also the new minimum to work as a career firefighter. 

Additionally, the state is making FF1 certification the new requirement for many of its grants to fire departments. Bockrath said having his crew work as FF1s means that he can work toward more state funding to keep Norwood even safer. 

Those that completed the academy and testing will get their FF1 certificate by the end of the year. 

Bockrath said he has faith in his crew. 

“I feel very confident the people of our community are very well protected,” he said.  

He added the state instructors were also impressed by the longevity of Norwood’s volunteers, along with the number of new people joining. Until two years ago, the average age of a firefighter in Norwood was 55. That number is now more like 45 with younger recruits joining the department. 

Bockrath said it’s amazing that someone like Tom Meehan has served for 42 years.