Prospective RCA students take on the Firefighter Rookie Challenge

Firefighter Rookie Challenge 2019 participants. Photo by Donna Cotterell.

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Utah Valley University’s Emergency Services Department hosted a “Firefighter Rookie Challenge” [FRC] on Sept. 14 to recruit students for its Fire and Rescue Academy. 

This event, which was first created back in Fall 2013 and held every March and September, is designed to give prospective students a chance to see firsthand what it would be like going through the UVU Recruit Candidate Academy (RCA). As a basic firefighting academy, the RCA prepares every student for entry-level employment as a firefighter and hazmat responder. 

Physical Training

Andy Brynes, former Orem Battalion Chief and current RCA program coordinator, ran the event with help from a few instructors and current RCA recruits. To start the challenge, the 19 participants take part in the Physical Training portion that RCA recruits do on the first day of classes. The PT includes:

  • 35 sit-ups in one minute
  • 35 pushups in one minute
  • a mile and a half run in under 15 minutes

“Speed and strength are necessary. If you cannot pass PT, you probably can’t carry the needed equipment to do the job.” Andy Brynes

More than half the participants were able to pass this challenge, with 14 succeeding in the sit-ups portion, 11 for pushups and 12 for running. 

Turnout Drills

Following the PT section, the participants were issued gear and got the chance to put turnouts on. Helping to demonstrate how to put on the gear, six current RCA students ran through the turnout drill and walked them through the process. 

Chad Knebel, current RCA student, walking participants through turnouts and SCBA drills. Photo by Jared Conover


After running the turnout drills and getting used to wearing the equipment, the participants headed outside to partake in three different skill sections run by individual instructors: search and rescue, ladder climbs, hose pulls and hydrant.

“The skills we choose [for the FRC] give a good cross-section of what a student would go through in a typical night…. This is kind of how to RCA is organized, they rotate from skill to skill as it is the best way to use my instructors with so many students.”Andy Brynes

During search and rescue, participants went into a pitch-black room, unaware of their surroundings, and crawled on their knees in search of the rescue dummy. With furniture scattered across the room and not being able to see, they had to locate the person and carry them to the safety of the door.

When asked how he felt after going through the skill, Brandon Mccleve, 18, said “It was a crazy, high-intensity moment. I like the challenge, though, and this made me want to do it [RCA] more.” 

For the ladder climb, participants got the chance to climb up a 14-15 foot ladder in full gear into a window and “gave a little taste of what it is actually like to climb up a building to assist someone,” says participant Cody Saunders, 20. Participants climbed up the ladder, demonstrated a leg lock and crawled into a window at the top. 

Moving to the hose pull and hydrant portion, participants were able to see how to use a fire hydrant and set up the hose. They also got the chance to man the hose themselves to put out a small fire started with some hay. It offered the opportunity to see what putting out a fire is.


The final portion was known as an evolution. The six recruits, currently in their third week of classes, demonstrated putting out an actual house fire. Participants got to observe and see what students of the RCA program get to experience and do.

“Running the evolution, it was a blast. Everyday you are learning something new. I believe the instructors see where we can be and they have us do things outside of our comfort zone so we can grow.” current RCA student Chad Knebel, 23

To end the night, the participants went into a classroom within the Emergency Service building and got to hear advice from Brynes, the other instructors and current RCA students. 

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