Trial by fire


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– Driving towards danger, hustling under the hot sun, and fighting flames aren’t for everyone. 

But this is exactly where Kyle Blakeslee wants to be. 

“It’s been kind of a dream of mine to be a firefighter,” SFFR Cadet Kyle Blakeslee said. 

Before she started pulling hoses and putting out fires, Blakelee worked as an American Sign Language interpreter for kids in the Sioux Falls School District. 

“I think I can utilize my sign language skills on the fire department as well,” Blakeslee said. 

Now as a Sioux Falls Fire Rescue cadet she’s learning a brand new skill set. 

“I knew there was fire behavior and I knew you had to pull a hose and do things like that, but there’s just so many details,” Blakeslee said. 

It’s the type of work Conner Van Dyke can’t seem to get enough of.

The cadet is already a volunteer firefighter in Chandler, Minnesota. 

“I love being a part of the fire service and I heard a lot of great things about Sioux Falls Fire so I knew this was the place to try for,” Cadet Conner Van Dyke said. 

The eight cadets train for eight hours a day Monday through Friday. 

“They start by learning the history of firefighting and work their way up through modern-day technology we use now. It’s from the ground floor working all the way up on what they’re taught out here in the academy,” SFFR Division Chief Steve Fessler said. 

The academy lasts 14 weeks. 

“It’s been a joy to come to work each day even though we’re working incredibly hard,” Blakeslee said. 

“Everyone’s very helpful and everyone’s here to learn and train and be a good firefighter,” Van Dyke said. 

Seven men and one woman will graduate on May 16. 

Then they’ll become probationary firefighters.

“They’re on probation for a year’s time. After that year’s point they take another written exam and some more skills validation exams and then they become firefighters,” Fessler said. 

The eight cadets will help fill a need in the growing city. 

“We have to be able to meet the demands of emergency services,” Fessler said. 

While that demand has drawn Blakeslee to a much different learning environment these days, she thinks she can still have an influence on kids in her new role. 

“Being in the kindergarten classroom was fun for me, and now when I go back to visit the kindergarteners they’ll know that I became a firefighter and they’ll be less scared when firefighters come with their big masks on,” Blakeslee said. 

But until then, she and the cadets will be getting ready for what’s to come. 

“I think I’m ready to hit the floor. I’m excited,” Blakeslee said. 

You can sign up to be notified when there are job openings with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue.

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