When we learned to color, we were taught to color inside the lines. When we learned to write, we were taught to stay within...

When we learned to color, we were taught to color inside the lines. When we learned to write, we were taught to stay within the lines on the page. For many, many years, this was how the fire service in America conducted training.

I will use Chesterfield Fire & EMS as the example, but this could apply to every department in the region. All training was predominantly done in-house. In other words, Chesterfield Fire trained their personnel in the way that they wanted. At one point, there was even a class called the Chesterfield Way. Cooperation among agencies was the exception rather than the norm.

Our first example of cooperation among agencies came with the Medflight program, where Virginia State Police pilots partnered with Chesterfield Fire & EMS paramedics to provide state-of-the-art air medical transport to the region.

Years ago, most of the outside training was conducted by the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md. I had the privilege of attending three different courses at the fire academy, exposing me to instructors and students from across the country. Many people have benefited from the excellent training offered by the National Fire Academy.

As I reached the midpoint of my career, I began to see a change in our way of thinking. Whatever caused the change, we began to see an emphasis in regional training and partnerships. With this also came increased mutual aid responses between Chesterfield, Richmond, Petersburg, etc.

I remember participating in regional hazardous material training, technical rescue training and even “big box” training. It was as though jurisdictional lines came down, and we began to tap into one another’s expertise. This benefited the entire fire service.

Increased national standards have also helped to widen the scope of fire training.

With the National Fire Incident Reporting System and updated communication standards and updates, the walls that once separated our departments have come down.

I started in the fire service as a volunteer, so I can speak to the fact that training for volunteers now lines up with the training that salaried personnel receive. This may not be the case everywhere in America, but it is that way in this region. There are also times when major incidents in the country afford opportunities for departments to send personnel to shadow personnel that are already on the ground. With firefighter standards being more nationally- and state-mandated, training outside the lines allows, for instance, Chesterfield firefighters to learn about high-rises from firefighters who run them every day.

Examples of regional cooperation show the paradigm shift that has occurred in today’s fire service.

The Virginia Helicopter Air Rescue Team is one of the newest, cooperative endeavors. The team is made up of helicopter crews from the Virginia Army National Guard and Chesterfield Fire & EMS dive team members.

In times of massive flooding, the teams are deployed to assist wherever needed. Other examples of regional response teams are the Central Virginia Technical Rescue Team, VA Division 1 Technical Rescue Team, VA Division 1 Swift/Flood Water Rescue Team, Central Virginia All Hazards Incident Management Team and Central Virginia Foam Response Team.

Regional training and response have paved the way to a stronger fire service.

I am able to benefit from this regional mindset through being a part of the regional fire service chaplains. I believe that a beautiful mosaic is created by regional cooperation.