Mike Jodrey

BETHEL — To compensate for loss of training time during the coronavirus pandemic, firefighters have raised the bar with 130 hours of training this year. Two-thirds of the training was new, the rest was a much needed refresher after the year away behind textbooks for training, according to Bethel Fire Chief Mike Jodrey,

From those hours, 35 of them went towards hazardous material training. During this training, the Firefighters would wear a blue spaceman suit (during the pandemic, only one person could wear this so it wouldn’t be contaminated), to fight off chemical gases. It has a breathing apparatus connected to it in addition, says Jodrey. Because the suit is so heavy, it takes an additional person to help put it on another firefighter properly. Often, it is so hard to see out of once the smoke is everywhere, that the firefighter has to practice maneuvering by way of touch.

During training, someone will drop a pen and say, “pick up the pen,” and the firefighter will try and find it among the fake “gases” and try and pick it up with the heavy gloves. All of this sounds basic. However, when there’s a real fire, the smoke is so thick, it’s hard to make out what’s right in front of you, and those gloves are tough enough to stop fire from burning a hand. They’re coarse. Something as simple a pen becomes, well, as Jodrey says, “The simplest things are not simple.”

Also involved with the training is a part called, “life training,” where the firefighters help people get out of cars.

“The car technology is ahead of us,” says Jodrey, nodding at electronic vehicles which are high voltage.

Eleven of the Bethel firefighters have gone onto big career moves, including working for FDNY or working in Portland. Still, they have a large team here at Bethel, with 24 active firefighters.

Regarding the team, Jodrey says, “You’re family. Everyone counts on each other, rips on another. Self-esteem is not allowed,” Jodrey says with a hearty laugh.

When asked if he finds the job frightening or scary, he says he’s fearful of what he’ll find when he shows up. “You have to be on your toes…can’t take anything for granted…you can’t get complacent or you’ll get bit.”

During the pandemic, they were up 50 calls from average (including police).

“[You] expect the worse and hope you don’t find it,” Jodrey concludes.

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