Local Highlight: Boulder City Fire Department

Beyond the high and mighty Hoover Dam, the majestic Lake Mead and the quaint atmosphere of downtown, the Boulder City Fire Department serves and protects the community, while creating one of the most accessible recruiting facilities in the Las Vegas Valley. It all began in 1960 – The Boulder City Fire Department (BCFD) was established the same year as the city itself, and with its single station, serves the now 16,000 population occupying 206 square miles. With 21 full time staff, two fire engines, a ladder truck, four Rescues and a 6 X 6 off-road rig, the BCFD has morphed over the years into a highly functioning and multi-faceted department. Their relatively compact crew and equipment allows them to handle all EMS and Firefighting rescues within the jurisdiction. They partner with close by Henderson Fire Department for tech aid and Hazmat teams. They also work hand in hand with all the private EMS companies within the Las Vegas valley for specific resources and requests on larger incidents and times when our needs outweigh the current available resources. 

In addition to providing the afore-mentioned services, BCFD has active community service programs designed to give back, including the Fire Union and the Benevolent Association which puts on galas and other special fundraising events.

Besides offering day-to-day emergency response services, the BCFD has been proudly building its Reserve Firefighters program over the past 10 years.  This program has not only been helpful in serving the community of Boulder City, it has also developed and groomed dozens of firefighters who have taken their professional skills and careers to other fire departments both locally and nationally.

The Reserve Training Program, which began in 1986, has burgeoned into a competitive and career building program that encourages firefighting hopefuls to ascertain and develop their skills as they learn what it takes to become a professional firefighter. What makes this program different from other programs? The prerequisite is simply to be at least 18 years of age and to have an EMT Advanced certification. There is no firefighting experience required to become a cadette, no entrance fee and anyone in the Las Vegas Valley is eligible.  The reserve academy seeks potential candidates that have a desire for learning and a passion for serving in the community. 

Here is how the program works: Once an applicant is accepted into the program and completes a stint as a cadet, they then advance to the next level, a Firefighter Reserve. Once they have completed the Cadet Academy and have certified themselves as completing the certification of Fire Fighter I, they are qualified to stand in for absent firefighters on any shift and/or fill in every day as an extra.

This 16-week program that allows candidates to work 12-hour training shifts on Saturdays, is the only paid professional program in Clark County in which a part time curriculum is offered. This is a tremendous opportunity for someone who wants to reach Fire Fighter I status without having to train in a full-time program.

But training for this program requires many and varied skillsets, including learning to catch a water supply using a hydrant, working with fire ladders, pulling hose lines, and learning the flow of water. Once the hands-on skills are mastered, the experience is built further to prepare candidates for real fire fighter scenes. In tandem with the physical skills, candidates are put through an online curriculum that is administered by a prominent national company that has established a national standard and curriculum. 

One of the most important things the BCFD looks for in recruiting good candidates is character – a strong work ethic, accountability, and respect for the duties of the job.

“We usually have 10-15 applicants come through each year,” said James Whitworth firefighter/paramedics and lead instructor of the Reserve Firefighter Academy. “Our goal is to increase it to 30 plus, and to hold two courses a year, one each in spring and fall.”

Whitworth confirmed there is a 95 percent hiring rate through the program, having produced hundreds of firefighters, many of whom have gone on to become fire chiefs and captains.

“My favorite aspect of the job is the wearing of many hats,” said Nigel Walton, also a firefighter/paramedics and lead instructor of the Reserve Firefighter Academy. “The BCFD responds to a variety of emergencies that are outside of city limits, oftentimes in the desert, off-road, Lake Mead and Hoover Dam – my job is always filled with new and unique experiences.”

If you would like to know more about BCFD or the program, please send an email to fire@bcnv.org.

Photo credit: Merrell Virgen Photography