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Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue is expected to begin its annual firetruck-driving training course in the University Mall’s parking lot from Jan. 25 through Feb. 28, in an agreement made Tuesday between the City of Tuscaloosa and University Mall.

The driving course is an annual refresher program that allows firefighters to operate the massive trucks under controlled driving conditions, which better prepares them for the streets and rescue missions.

According to TFR Chief Randy Smith, drivers must maneuver an obstacle course containing three exercises: snaking through a serpentine course, practicing parking in narrow alleyways and growing comfortable with a diminishing clearance of traffic paths. While there are currently only 72 official firetruck drivers, all personnel must complete this course yearly, no matter their rank.

“Our drivers have to be prepared to drive any vehicle within the department, so by allowing them to practice on various trucks, it helps them get comfortable,” Smith said.

TFR's Public Safety Educator Holly Whigham vouched for the training course, claiming it gives drivers the experience they need to be successful in their careers.

“The first promotion a firefighter can receive is driver,” Whigham said, who explained how the course not only refreshes a returning firefighter’s knowledge but also prepares future drivers with valuable experience.

While a mall parking lot may seem like an odd location to host the firetruck-driving training course, Whigham said the City of Tuscaloosa is in contract with the mall, which has provided the necessary parking lot space for “the last several years.”

According to the Public Projects Committee on the Tuscaloosa City Council, this course requires no additional government funding.

As this program kicks off, The Tuscaloosa Thread will be attending some of the courses to give the public a look at the trucks in action. Stay tuned for more updates as information arises.

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