Last weekend, 11 Firefighter-EMT’s graduated from the Williston Fire Department Academy. The new recruits completed a rigorous 22-week academy that included 880 hours of classroom time and hands-on instruction in addition to daily physical training. The hands-on training exercises — to name just a few — included how to remove a trapped person from a car, how to deal with hazardous materials, live fire training, search and rescue scenarios, and airport firefighting conditions.

Over the course of 22 weeks, each graduate earned 10 different professional certifications and emergency medical technician licensure; several of our new academy graduates have also expressed interest in continuing their education and obtaining paramedic license. Given our growing community, consistently increasing number of calls for service, and the upcoming holiday, 11 additional Firefighter-EMT’s divided among the Fire Department’s three shifts in Williston couldn’t be more welcome.

Independence Day — while definitely a time to celebrate our country — has a lot of the features you expect to see during any holiday, like spending time and sharing meals with friends and family. Two key differences with the July 4 holiday are that 1) the meals we share during this time of year are often cooked on a grill and 2) fireworks seem to make some people forget their common sense.

Annually, fireworks cause devastating burns, injuries, fires, and death. On July 4, in an average year fireworks account for nearly half of all reported fires. On behalf of our fire department and their new recruits, let’s do what we can as citizens to make sure that we’re not adding to the 11,100 injuries that had to be treated in the United States because of fireworks, or the 9,600 home grill fires that are reported each year. According to consumer reports, 73 percent of people grill on the Fourth of July so it’s not a coincidence that July is also the peak month for grill fires. Our fire chief recommends that you do your part to prevent some of the leading causes of home grill fires: keep your grill clean, place the grill out of the way of foot-traffic and away from structures like your home, deck or overhanging tree branches, don’t use the grill too close to something that could burn or catch fire, never leave your grill unattended, and make sure the grill’s fire has been properly put out before storing or leaving the grill.

I hope you all have wonderful weekend, a fantastic Fourth of July, and a safe holiday. Williston has an especially lot to offer this week in terms of celebrations with Summer Nights on Main from 5-9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2, Williston Basin Speedway Dirt Track Racing with a fireworks display to follow on Wednesday, July 3, and on July 4, starting at 6 p.m. at the Upper Missouri Valley Fairgrounds, a Fourth of July celebration with food, drinks, and music, live music starting at 8:30 p.m. and a fireworks display at dusk.

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