The Austin Fire Department gave dozens of firefighter wannabes an up-close look at what it takes to be part of the team.

AFD firefighters showed participants of the Pass the Torch Program how to fly drones at Walter E. Long Lake on Saturday. Participants also learned how to rescue swimmers. It's the same training every Austin firefighter must go through.

"Not a lot of females are firefighters," Claire Park said.

But Park said that's not why she wants to be a firefighter. The reason? Firefighters were first on the scene when she as hit by a drunk driver a few years back.

"It just really kind of touched my heart the way that they were able to kind of calm me down on a personal level, kind of like human to human. You just always think of these firefighters as these big burly strong men but having an experience like that made me realize how much more well rounded a job like that is," said Park.

Park is one nearly two dozen participants in AFD's Pass the Torch program. The Program allows those curious about firefighting a safe place to practice their learned skills. For example, how to use paddle boards to save lives.

"Have the citizen grab the board on one side and as you flip it over, it almost throws the citizen on the board itself," AFD Battalion Chief, Pablo Ruiz, said.

Training also included swift water and vehicle rescues. It's the same training real cadets go through.

"Learning how to function as a team. Have awareness of where your team members are at the same time, just working together, communication, that was the toughest part but it's also the part that I enjoyed the most," said Bat. Chief Ruiz.

AFD started the Pass the Torch Program years ago as a way to increase minority interest, hoping the hands-on experience turns into life-long jobs.

If you're interested in the program, go to for more information.

The Pass the Torch Academy consists of nine weekend sessions. Attendance is mandatory, so be sure you can commit to the schedule before signing up.