Josh Tyler, a lieutenant with Clackamas Fire, has become a certified Georgia Smoke Diver – a distinction no other Oregon firefighter claims.
Since the creation of the Georgia Smoke Diver program in 1978, there have been 59 classes and over 1,100 students completing the course. The idea behind the training is to raise up “thinking” firefighters, according to Tyler.
The grueling training pushes participants to their limits, both physically and mentally, to become better firefighters. On average, fewer than half pass the training, and Tyler did just that.
The Georgia Smoke Diver course is a six-day, 60-hour program that includes between 10 to 12-hour drills each day designed for the experienced firefighter.
The program covers realistic training in self-survival (including full water submersion in firefighting gear), firefighter rescue, advanced search and rescue, thermal imaging, emergency procedures, teamwork, discipline, situational awareness and decision-making.
The training functions within the elements of the Incident Command System, all of which takes place after a three-hour rigorous morning routine that includes high-repetition calisthenics in full firefighting gear, a five-mile run and a 16-station obstacle course which is designed to test the candidate’s common firefighting skills such as search, forcible entry and flashover scenarios.
It’s widely considered one of the most intense training courses a firefighter can experience, building competence and confidence in those who are able to complete it. In addition to the physical and mental preparation required for the week of training, Tyler had to make some other sacrifices as well.
“You’re away from your family, not only during the program but for the hours of preparation weekly leading up to the time you’re away,” he said.
Each participant is also responsible for the financial requirements which include, but are not limited to, travel and fees that come with the program.
“Words can’t express the pride I feel for Lieutenant Josh Tyler in completing the Georgia Smoke Diver program,” said Clackamas Fire Chief Nick Browne. “The mental toughness, fortitude, dedication and service that Lieutenant Tyler demonstrates on a daily basis exemplifies what this program stands for.
“Servant leadership is about putting the needs of others first. It’s about being at war with mediocrity because in doing so you are better prepared to serve others and make those around you successful. It also represents the culture that exists at all levels here at Clackamas Fire.”
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