City commissioners take part in GRFD training

Grand Rapids city commissioners take part in Grand Rapids Fire Department training Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — They’re usually sitting at the big table, making big decisions. But Thursday, some city commissioners were getting a lesson on the operations of one of the city’s largest, most costly services — the Grand Rapids Fire Department.

Several city commissioners, including First Ward Commissioner Jon O’Connor, and other city officials took part in Thursday’s hand-on training.

“This gear is quite heavy and we are going to add some more weight to it. We’re going to put on some breathing apparatus,” O’Connor said while wearing firefighter gear.

Thursday’s GRFD training exercise was the basic 16-week firefighter course crammed into one day. Commissioners went through a number of day-in-the-life scenarios.

“Try to go into this shipping container sort of house structure here and run around in the dark a bit — really see what it’s like to feel the pressure that they got to feel,” O’Connor said.

But it’s more than a get to know your firefighter session. The city spends just under $30 million a year on the fire department, and the city commission has a major influence on the budget.

GRFD Chief John Lehman said while the department’s budget is in good shape now, educating commissioners on the job is an ongoing opportunity.

“Right now, I think it’s a good time to give them the information, the experience in order for them to make better decisions when it does come to those times,” Lehman said.

The chief said he would like to expand the training to include business and other community leaders in the future.