Nov 7, 2013 6:27 PM by April Hansen, KSBY

Santa Maria Fire Department trains new engineers

The Santa Maria Fire Department is making some much needed promotions this week.

A handful of firefighters have been training for engineer positions.

Department leaders say training for this job has slowed down in recent years because there were not enough qualified people.

"Don't get ready for the test. Get ready for the job. Be good at your craft," said Battalion Chief Rick Bertram.

Eight firefighters are vying for positions as engineers.

"As far as preparing for the job, it's a lot of personal time. Not work time. It's after 5 p.m. It's on their days off to pass this process," said Battalion Chief Bertram.

Battalion Chief Bertram says everyone who works for the department is considered a firefighter, but an engineer is responsible for one of the most important pieces of equipment -- the truck.

"They are responsible for getting us there safely, driving the streets. The city of Santa Maria has quite a few people so it's really important their driving ability is good," said Battalion Chief Bertram.

There are only five positions open and Battalion Chief Bertram says it's taken years to get them filled.

The opening of Fire Station 3 last year put the department behind on its promotions.

"Basically you have to have qualified people to fill those positions and opening a new fire station, that was nine people, so getting enough people ready to test and be qualified took time," said Battalion Chief Bertram.

"The training has been very tough," said engineer trainee Matthew Mihlhauser.

Mihlhauser has tested all week for one of the spots. He says he's ready for the challenge.

"It's very difficult when you wake up from a dead sleep to driving a fire engine so the overall responsibility is the biggest difference," said Mihlhauser.



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