Firefighters saving firefighters
"Everyone says firefighters are the first to run into a burning building, head-on into the flames. But who's going to save them?" said Forest City Fire Captain Jerry Hinson, as he watched two firefighters climb onto a training prop recently built by the fire department with lumber and supplies donated by Lowe's Home Improvement.
"This and other props are teaching firefighters how to become one another's rescuers."
Hinson and Forest City Fire Marshal Tommy Harmon approached local Lowe's store manager Chris Angel back in January about the idea for the firefighter training props.
"We don't have the props to teach what we need to teach, and Angel was very helpful in donating the supplies and generous in wanting to help a local fire department," Hinson said.
"It's great to be a part of the community and be able to give something back," Angel said. "It's important when we can make a contribution like this to the community and it's nice to come out here and see the training props being used by the firefighters."
On Friday morning the Forest City Fire Department received lumber and supplies including shingles, tar paper, hinges and nails to construct a ventilation prop.
This will be the fire department's second prop and will simulate one side of a roof to train firefighters how to use roof ladders and practice cutting a hole into a roof.
"These props have really been a major asset for us," said Forest City firefighter and EMT Billy Samuel, who builds the props in his basement with help from fellow firefighter Caleb King. "It's a lot of fun building the props because of the great purpose they are being used for."
Hinson said the fire department plans to build a total of four props.
The first prop the department completed is a wall prop that trains firefighters the proper ways to get into a basement and enter and exit windows during a fire.
"We have to think quick on our feet and sometimes firefighters need to find additional or different ways to get into windows and get back out," Hinson said. "The wall prop also provides firefighters with rapid intervention training (RIT), which is essentially self survival — firefighters saving firefighters."
Early Friday afternoon, Forest City firefighters Steve Herndon and Garrett Brooks dressed head to toe in their fire gear, complete with masks and air tanks, and climbed onto the wall prop located in a warehouse building off of Beaver Road provided by the Town of Forest City for the fire department's use.
Herndon and Brooks simulated getting out of a window in the event flames are behind them, how to use straps to hook themselves onto window ledges and help a fellow firefighter and various ways in which to use a halligan bar, a forcible entry tool used for prying, twisting, punching and striking.
"These props provide a safe, controlled environment for us to properly train, versus a smoke-filled or hazardous environment," Hinson said. "The props attempt to simulate real conditions, and we train like it's the real deal. We will continue to use these props for a long time."
One of the next training props the fire department will work on completing after the ventilation prop is an attic prop, which will train firefighters how to prepare for the floor dropping out from beneath them during a fire.
"People don't always see this training and realize how hard it is — it's physical, mental and emotional conditioning," Samuel said. "We train harder and extensively so that in real life, we're more prepared when we get to the real thing."
Hinson said additional fire departments are also utilizing the training equipment, including firefighters from Bostic, Cherry Mountain and Ellenboro who have come to train with the props.
"We couldn't ever thank Lowe's enough for what they've done," Samuel said. "We hope these props and training with them will help reduce the number of firefighter deaths and prevent additional deaths."