Fire school draws hundreds

Hundreds of firefighters from many areas of the Tri-State Area and Maryland have turned out this weekend to gain knowledge and practice in various aspects of firefighting and rescue operations.

In its 16th year, the Upper Ohio Valley Fire and Rescue School is sponsored by the Hooverson Heights Volunteer Fire Department, Regional Educational Service Agency VI, the Brooke County Board of Education, Wheeling-Nisshin Inc., West Virginia Division of Technical and Adult Education, A.V. Lauttamus Communications and Brooke-Hancock Local Emergency Planning Commission.

Hooverson Heights Fire Chief Rob Carroll expressed thanks to area emergency departments that joined the Hooverson Heights department in providing vehicles and other equipment for the hands-on exercises and to individuals and groups that allowed the drills to be held on their property.

Among the training sites was the former St. John School, which was the site of two classes: Firefighter Survival and Rapid Intervention.

The courses offered different perspectives on the same situation: a firefighter has fallen and his comrades must rescue him.

They were taught by a quartet of experienced Clarksburg firefighters: Joe Bennett, a retired director of safety and training for the Clarksburg department; Pat SanJulian, Matt Reel and Walter Knight, all officers in the department and RESA fire service instructors.

The first class focused on measures firefighters can take to improve their own safety.

In the second class, Reel and Knight guided the firefighters through such steps as applying a new oxygen mask to the injured firefighter and offered tips in effectively and safely transporting him from the scene and up or down steps, even when he is much larger than the firefighter coming to his aid.

Participants took turns being the rescuer and the rescued. When a smoke machine was used to simulate a burning building, the students were charged with finding and rescuing a mannequin “firefighter.”

Over the years classes have focused on a variety of topics, from the administration of a fire department and arson investigation to basic firefighting and the operation of a fire truck.

The school has included such timely topics as rescuing victims of accidents involving all-terrain vehicles (with the firefighters using ATVs themselves as well as Global Positioning System equipment), recognizing signs of a criminal meth lab and tactics cyberterrorists may use in an effort to disrupt emergency response.

One of this year’s additions is a course aimed at helping firefighters to do their job in the crowded houses kept by hoarders. The course was taught by Ryan Pennington, a firefighter and paramedic with the Charleston Fire Department, member of the West Virginia Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team and contributing editor for Firehouse.com,

Carroll said unfortunately, firefighters have been dealing with hoarders for some time.

“I remember going into this house (during a fire) and having this small path to get through,” he said.

Carroll added there was another time when a patient suffering from a heart attack had to be moved into another area because there wasn’t room to treat him.

Carroll expressed thanks to area emergency departments that joined the Hooverson Heights department in providing vehicles and other equipment for hands-on exercises.

He noted the Wellsburg Fire Department held a hospitality night for all participants at its hall and the Franklin Community Fire Department manned a concession stand.

Carroll also thanked individuals and groups that allowed them to be held on their property.

The exercises created some spectacle and a few misunderstandings from bystanders. For example, a vehicle overturned near St. John School by organizers for an auto extrication class led some to report a real auto accident occurred there.

The former Longhorn Restaurant on Charles Street, used for a basic firefighting class, was among other sites used for training.

In his second year as an instructor for the school, Reel said, “I enjoy it. Not only do all of the (local) departments want to help out, but the community is more than willing to help out.”

Sam Hannah was one of eight Star City, W.Va. firefighters who turned out for the school.

“We try go a lot of training every year. It’s a pretty good school. They have a nice set up,” he said.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com)