June 24, 2010

Fire Department Completes Extensive Training Program

It was back to school for a number of local volunteers this winter and while the students did not cross the stage to receive a diploma, the training will still prove invaluable to the community.

Members of the Scotland County Fire Department recently completed five months of training under the Firefighter 1 program, provided by a pair of instructors from Iowa.

The local firemen met twice a month to receive instruction and practical training on a variety of topics ranging from orientation and communication at a fire scene, and firefighter safety to fire behavior, rescue, and fire control.

Because the training was offered across state lines, the firemen did not qualify for actual Firefighter 1 certification.

“We weren’t doing it for the certificate, we just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to learn how to do our job better,” said Fire Chief Bryan Whitney.

Firemen Brandon Elenbaas and Roger Gosney serve as the department’s training officers. They organized the extensive regimen of classwork and practical training administered to the 28-man volunteer department.

“Brandon works with one of the instructors, so that is how we were able to secure their services and get them to come to Memphis to put on the classes,” Whitney said. “He and Roger deserve all of the credit. They put this together and worked really hard to insure we had great attendance from our members.”

The classes taught the firemen basic fire knowledge. While many of the volunteers have years of experience as emergency responders, Whitney noted that the basic science behind fire fighting was one of the firemen’s favorite classes.

The manual notes that “effective fire control requires a basic understanding of the chemical and physical nature of fire. The study of fire behavior provides the firefighter with a window into the world of fire. A window that can allow the firefighter to accurately predict what a given fire is going to do. With this understanding, the firefighter can effectively control and extinguish fires with a higher degree of safety that in turn will reduce risk to life and needless loss of property. All this enhances the firefighter’s level of professionalism and dramatically increases the odds for the firefighter to remain safe while combating a fire.”

Gosney stressed the importance of the training program with the current make up of the volunteer fire department.

“Over the past couple years we have had a significant turnover on the fire department, losing hundreds of years of experience as some of the older firemen retire,” he said. “So with a lot of new faces, this type of training is important.”

Gosney added that the hands-on portion of the sessions was key for the newer firemen.

“We get our fair share of on-the-fly training at actual fires and accidents, but generally the guys with the experience are performing the key tasks to get the job done, leaving little opportunity for people to get their feet wet so to speak,” he said.

During the 78 hours of Firefighter 1 training, the volunteers worked extensively with the department’s air packs and various breathing apparatus.

That came in handy on the training night for extrication. The fire department building was turned into a fire scene with the use of non-toxic smoke machines that filled the second story of the facility with smoke. Trainees crawled through the building, working around training walls deployed in various locations to change the floor plan, all the while searching for victims to safely remove from the hazard.

The training ended in May but the department continued its efforts with a special trip to Pulaski, IA, in June to attend the Iowa Fire Service Training Bureau smoke trailer training.

“This is as close as its gets to the real thing,” Gosney said of the hands on scenario that puts firemen in full gear in a smoke filled trailer. “You go through that and you realize how much effort it takes to manuever in all of that heavy equipment, turning corners and toting a fully-charged 1 ½ inch hose line.”

The department will continue to hold monthly training sessions, meeting on the third Wednesday of the month. Future sessions will focus on pump and vehicle operation, water drafting and operating fire hydrants.

The firemen hope that much of their training will never be needed, but the recent program does insure they will be better prepared to respond to such emergencies if the need arises.

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