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City firefighters get new gear and training to help escape from burning buildings

By Howard B. Owens

On Jan. 23, 2005, six New York City firefighters became trapped on the fourth floor of a burning building. All six jumped from windows, and two firefighters died after the 50-foot fall.

Soon after, FDNY began testing procedures and systems to allow firefighters to more safely exit a building if fire has blocked all doorway exits.

After a couple of years of research, FDNY came up with specification for a rappel system that is lightweight so interior firefighters can carry it as part of their regular gear. 

A Utah-based company then developed a device based on those specifications.

It's now state law that all interior firefighters be equipped with this system, or one like it, and the City of Batavia has become one of the first fire departments in the state, outside of New York City, to purchase and train all of its firefighters on the system, called EXO.

"New York has been using it three or four years, so it's a proven system," said Capt. Craig Williams.

The cost to outfit 36 firefighters and have local crew members trained to use it and train other firefighters was $25,000.

The training isn't as easy as it looks, the firefighters say. They are required to climb out of a simulated second-story window nine times -- three times with no other gear, three times with their breathing apparatus and three times with their face shields blacked out so they can't see -- just as it would likely be in a real fire.

The training is obviously physically demanding. Today, firefighters who completed the procedure were clearly winded once they were on the ground and had their masks off.

Of the local volunteer fire departments, Williams said only Bergen is making the purchase and beginning the training at this time.

Photos: Top, Capt. Jeff Day comes out of a simulated upper-story window at the city's fire headquarters. Inset is Day right after pulling off his mask after reaching the ground. Bottom, is firefighter Dave Adams.

Dave Olsen

I meant to comment on this earlier. If this device and training saves 1 firefighter's life, it'll be worth every penny. Thanks fire fighters in Genesee County for all you do.

Apr 18, 2010, 10:55am Permalink

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