14 Graduate from the 12th Session of Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue Department's Citizens Fire Academy

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Front Row (L to R): Valerie Pitman, Erin Kuhn, Christina Burlason, Lauren Harrison, Amrith Kahlon, Vanessa McMurray, and Chad McMurray. Back Row (L to R): Chief Cumbey Gaines, Robert Deocales, Tracy Deocales, Chris Burlason, Gena Burns-Harrison, Nicolas Pitman, Vanessa Coates, and Deputy Chief Roger Toombs. Not pictured: William McCormick

Fourteen students graduated Tuesday night from the 12th Session of Murfreesboro Fire & Rescue Department's Citizens Fire Academy (CFA).

The students completed a six-weeks course in which they participated in activities that MFRD personnel perform on the job. Students donned turnout gear, experienced climbing a 65' aerial, practiced extrication, conducted a search and rescue using GPS and thermal imaging cameras, and much more.

Graduates of the class were: Chris Burlason, Christina Burlason, Vanessa Coates, Robert Deocales, Tracy Deocales, Gena Burns-Harrison, Lauren Harrison, Amrith Kahlon, Erin Kuhn, William McCormick, Chad McMurray, Vanessa McMurray, Nicholas Pitman, and Valerie Pitman.

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"This particular CFA group was unique because there were several pairs of family members," said CFA Coordinator Laurie Alsup. "The Burlasons and Deocales are spouses," she said, "and the Harrisons, McMurrays, and Pitmans are parents and children."

Vanessa McMurray was very thankful for this experience for her son, Chad, who has special needs. "I never dreamed he would be able to do the things he did with the Citizens Fire Academy," she said. "He climbed a 65' aerial and the MFRD personnel were right behind him...holding him, coaching him every step of the way. He loved being a part of everything. The compassion that they showed not just Chad, but all of us in the class, brings tears to my eyes."

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Gena Burns-Harrison commented on taking the class with her daughter, Lauren, "My daughter and I have had an incredibly unique mother-daughter bonding time. CFA is an experience that, I submit, neither of us will forget. While we have always been explorers, investigators, and researchers, this experience has broadened our horizons and opened our eyes. It has made us contemplate things we had never previously considered." Burns-Harrison also said she expects her husband and son will want to follow in their footsteps and apply for next year's CFA.

At the graduation ceremony, students enjoyed one last meal with their instructors before receiving a certificate of completion, a class photo, and a DVD with pictures from their experience.

"This group has become a part of our MFRD family," said Alsup. "Many of the graduates spoke about their appreciation for what our Firefighters do. They now realize that these men and women spend hours away from their families, have an intensely physical job, and are faced with many dangers. I hope they are able to share that with others."

The Citizens Fire Academy is held in the fall of each year. The CFA offers a small group of area residents the opportunity to view and participate in activities and services provided by MFRD. Information regarding upcoming classes is generally released each July. If you would like to know more about the Citizens Fire Academy, contact MFRD Fire Administration Monday-Friday 8:00 am-4:30 pm at 615-893-1422 or visit www.murfreesborotn.gov/fireacademy. *The course is not employment related.

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