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Firefighter cadets undergo live-fire training at Del Mar College

Cadets ranging in age from 18 to nearly 40 donned full firefighting gear as they took their final steps toward finishing their training.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Del Mar College hosted a fire training exercise for academy recruits this Wednesday on its Windward Campus. 10 cadets took part in a demonstration of their firefighting skills as they completed their program.

The cadets dressed in full firefighting gear as they took the final steps toward their training. Their ages ranged from 18 to more than 30 years old.

3News spoke with Cadet Eric Barhan about this year's class. 

"We've been fortunate enough to get hands-on experience," Barhan said. "A lot more than previous classes from what we've heard. So we've enjoyed it and it's beneficial in the end when we put everything together, and do what we're taught, and it's been a rewarding experience."

Barhan said that being able to pull from different age groups makes his experience even more invaluable. 

"It's interesting. Like you said, we have 18 year olds all the way up to myself, 39," Barhan said. "To be able to merge those generations, I guess, it's an experience that you need to learn because you're not in there alone."

Cadet classes usually have around 25-30 individuals, but last year saw a notable decline. According to Corpus Christi Fire Department Fire Marshal Randy Paige, the number of recruits just depends on the year. 

"We've seen it dwindle a little bit, but not much," Paige said. "But year-to-year is really different. We've had years where there were 250 and we've had years where there were well over 500."

The exercises at Del Mar College prepare cadets for becoming firefighters based on state guidelines. The process takes a year to complete. 

"When we give a test in January each year, we don't actually hire them until January of the next year," Paige said. "Because the process is so long with all the testing, background, physicals that they go through."

For some like Barhan, who was in the U.S. Coast Guard for 20 years, the process remains a challenge.

"If you venture off and try to do your own thing, it's not going to work. The team's going to crumble. So teamwork, communication is important, and it shows when we're out here working together," Barhan said. 

Even though the cadets practice with controlled flames, the field work still prepares them to handle real situations whenever they may arise.

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