URBANDALE, Iowa — The Urbandale Fire Department is giving people a taste of life as a firefighter at its Citizen Fire Academy.

The program gives participants a hands-on, interactive experience using both fire and EMS equipment.

“When we started this back in 2012 we wanted a way to kind of be able to reach out to residents of the community to kind of get them more involved with the fire department,” Urbandale Fire Marshal Jon Rech said.

He said the academy is a seven-week program. Each week covers a different aspect of the department.

“Movies and TV, while they kind of do a good job sometimes of kind of profiling fire and EMS as a profession, they don’t really capture the actual reality of what it is that we do and how things actually happen on an emergency,” Rech said.

The program begins on April 6. It’s each Thursday through May 18 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. There’s also a graduation ceremony and picnic on May 20. Participants are required to attend at least five of the seven sessions. Graduates also have the opportunity to do a ride-along with the fire department.

Applications are due March 3. Applicants must be at least 18.

Rech said there are 12 spots available in total. Urbandale residents will get preference but it is open to people from other communities.