Indiana firefighter recruits get on the job training

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)  A fire at an abandoned apartment complex on the west side of Indianapolis was deliberately set. But it turned out, that was a good thing. Because what happened there could end up saving a life.

Smoke was showing at a partially built, Wayne Township apartment complex. Firefighters were inside attacking the flames.

“There’s nothing fake about it. It’s all reality right here as they drag these fire hoses in,” says Capt. Michael Pruitt of the Wayne Township Fire Department.

The fire was set on purpose, and then fought by fire department recruits from Wayne Township, Speedway, Avon, Michigan City and LaPorte.

“To really feel the heat. To really hear the noises. To the zero visibility. All of those things, so when they do get on that first fire, the anxiety level won’t be as high,” says Pruitt.

The firefighter recruits are actually in their 18th week of training. But getting this opportunity is a rare and eye-opening experience.

“You’re seeing the fire in its truest form, before any water’s been on it. So you basically just see a room full of fire,” said Levi Seymour, a Speedway recruit, as he came out of the burning building.

And the recruits learn how to handle the heat before they hit the real thing.

“It’s hard to simulate real fire. So I think the best way to do it is actually find an apartment or find a house and light it on fire,” Seymour says.

The buildings have been abandoned for years. The city took over the property and sold it to Jameson Camp which is located next door. Jameson is an 80-year-old Indianapolis non-profit that helps disadvantaged young people. It and the city want the buildings demolished, so they turned to the Wayne Township Fire Department.

“They get some use out of it. And the buildings come down. It sounds like a win win,” says Dan Shepley, Executive Director of Jameson.

And having real life experience can make a difference when one of the recruits is called to a neighborhood.

“When these firefighters get their assignments and their stations and they respond on the first fire call, they’re going to already have that feeling of being in a structure like this that’s on fire,” says Pruitt.

The recruits will be fighting fires at the abandoned apartment complex through Wednesday. After that they’ll return home for their permanent assignments. Jameson Camp hopes eventually to use the property to expand their current camp, perhaps adding a lake and walking trails. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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