After a job search that lasted several months, Creston Fire Department finally has a new firefighter on board.
Casey Carpenter officially joined Creston Fire Department Tuesday, Jan. 31, as a full-time firefighter.
Carpenter, 25, comes to the Creston department after spending more than six years with the Milford Volunteer Fire Department in Milford, located on the southern edge of Okoboji Lake.
“It means a lot,” Carpenter said. “It was slightly emotional. It has been my dream job for a long time now and I finally am able to pursue it. It’s finally all coming together and it feels good.”
Creston Fire Chief Todd Jackson began looking for candidates in October. With only one candidate passing the physical fitness test the first time, Jackson suggested they open it up again in hopes of having more candidates pass to create a pool of candidates to choose from.
“It all takes time. We have to meet with the civil service board, go through things with them first,” Jackson said. “Then we have to set a test date and give the candidates time to prepare themselves for the physical fitness part of the testing. We did that again and ended up with a couple more who passed, so we ended up with three who passed.”
The physical fitness test includes climbing the 75-foot aerial ladder, do a rescue drag where candidates must drag a 180-pound rescue dummy through a maze while wearing their air pack and with obscured vision, pushups, situps and a 1.5-mile run.
Law enforcement goes through the same physical fitness test, with fire departments adding in the ladder climb and rescue drag.
Candidates must also take a written exam.
“(Casey), his scores were the best of the three and, also, he had more experience,” Jackson said. “He had six years on a fire department previously, so that helped. So experience and credentials, plus he had a bachelor’s degree in fire science.”
In addition to serving as a captain on Milford’s fire department, Carpenter already had his firefighter I and instructor’s certifications, while also obtaining his bachelor’s degree in fire science online from Columbia Southern University. Carpenter has also helped his father, Jim, travel with his firefighting instruction business.
“He’s been a firefighter for probably 30-some years now,” Carpenter said about his father. “I grew up around it and he toted me around, took me to trainings and stuff. That was his cheap daycare. I travel five states with my dad, ... travel around training firefighters with him. I’ve grown up around firefighting my whole life.”
Jackson said he likes to hire firefighters with five or more years of experience under their belt, since it takes firefighters longer to develop their skillset in a rural area that doesn’t see as many fires.
Jackson is still training Carpenter as he goes. But, with the fire department still shorthanded, orientation has been slower going than Jackson would like.
The addition of Carpenter to the fire department was a relief, though.
“We’re still short a firefighter with one on sick leave. We just don’t have the staffing right now,” Jackson said. “We’re struggling. That left three career staff members. We have to have at least one of us career staff members on duty all the time, so it was really thin.”
Carpenter said he’s enjoying Creston so far.
“I think they are very fortunate,” he said. “They have a lot of really nice equipment. They seem to be doing very well for a department of their size. I like it a lot so far.”