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.