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July 15, 2009 - 4:05pm

Volunteer firefighters trained in building evacuation at county facility

posted by Howard B. Owens in firefighters, tim yaeger.

fire_training_building.jpg

Contrary to Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian's adamant and repeated point Monday night that volunteer firefighters aren't trained or qualified to evacuate buildings, especially such large structures as 400 Towers, the VA and UMMC, volunteers get extensive evacuation training according to Genesee County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger.

Yaeger gave me a tour of the building last night where it's done (pictured above). We walked around inside and out. He showed me how interior rooms are configured and used, and the room where temperatures can reach as high as 900 degrees while trainees learn how to rescue people.

"The volunteer training is the exact same training as the career firefighters get," Yaeger said. "The main difference is that the volunteer's training might be spread over months if not a year where the career firefighter goes through an academy and is trained in three months."

In every jurisdiction, Yaeger said, whether covered by a career department or a volunteer department, all firefighters receive specialized training and pre-planned rescue schemes are developed on the exact large structures in their jurisdictions.

In other words, there's no reason a volunteer couldn't be just as qualified as a career firefighter to evacuate 400 Towers in an emergency.

"400 Towers is in my ward, and we have hospitals in the other wards," Christian said during Monday's council meeting. "When you can prove to me that they have the training, then I can agree with it. Until then, I can't."

Asked to comment this afternoon, Christian said he gets her information from her two nephews, who are volunteer firefighters, and Batavia Fire Chief Ralph Hyde. She said her nephews told her they've never been trained to evacuate a building.

"I'd like them to prove it to me (that volunteers get the same training) and give me the facts," Christian said. "If you can't believe in our own fire chief, who can you believe?"

She invited Yaeger to call her and explain the training to her, or she will take to him the next time she sees him at a county meeting.

Robert Hunt
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Let me start by saying I know several career firefighters, I have worked side by side with them and I have the utmost respect for them. What I’m about to say are just some facts based on comments recently published. I agree totally with Mr. Yaeger’s comments. All fire departments, career or volunteer train for the type of incidents that may occur in their fire districts. Fire departments in an urban area might train for high rise or commercial building type incidents where those in a rural area probably would not. Rural fire departments train in drafting, shuttling water, and high speed motor vehicle accidents where urban probably would not. I can tell you first hand that The Town of Batavia Fire Department has done high rise hotel training because they have a few in their district. They have also gone to the Monroe county fire training center where they trained in aircraft fire suppression and rescue because they have an airport in their district. The only other airport in the County is in Leroy so besides Leroy Fire Department no one else would have a need for this type training. Where I’m going with all this is that all fire departments train for types of incidents they may encounter, not the ones they probably never will. The requirements to become an interior firefighter changed during the last twenty years and now when a volunteer graduates from firefighter 1 he/she is certified by the state as an interior firefighter. Most Volunteer fire departments require additional in house training for these “new recruits” before they will allow them to conduct any interior fire operations. Career or volunteer, we are all here for the same purpose; both are and should be treated as equal. Just because some chose it as a career path and others did not doesn’t give anyone the right to put down or belittle either. There are a lot of negative and false comments being spread around about the volunteers that are not fair and unjust. If anyone out there is in search of the true facts instead of the hearsay going around they should stop by a volunteer fire department and talk to their officers.
Howard B. Owens
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Very good comment, Chief Hunt. Thank you. BTW: Supervisor Post was singing the praises of your department last night -- both during the meeting and after.

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