News Democrat

Going through the fire

By Wayne Gates

Eleven students from Southern Hills Career and Technical Center recently found themselves surrounded by smoke and flame.

The group was working at a fire training facility in Loveland as part of the Firefighter 1 class at SHCTC’s Adult Education Center.

The group took turns dressing up in full gear, including oxygen masks and firehoses, and fought a fire that was staged inside a building.

Communication, teamwork and proper procedure was discussed and demonstrated, giving the students a chance to experience firefighting beyond the classroom.

The Sardinia Fire Department supplied the fire trucks and other gear, as well as personnel to help train the students. Firefighters from the Mt. Orab Fire Department were also assisting.

Southern Hills Adult Education Director Vicki Carrington said that the participation of the local fire departments is vital to the students getting effective training.

“The fire departments have the skills and the equipment needed to do the fire training. All of the area fire departments are always more than willing to help us,” she said. “We seem to be getting requests every day for more fire classes. We are working on that as well as EMT classes as well.”

Carrington said that SHCTC was continuing to work on getting a fire training facility built locally.

Instructor Ryan Waterfield said that the communities who are working with SHCTC to help train firefighters recognize that they are benefiting as well.

“We all realize that it’s not just a Mt. Orab or Brown County problem in finding new firefighters and EMT’s,” he said.

“It’s our lives and our families that these new firefighters are going to help protect once they get on the job. When someone calls 911, it’s the worst day of their life. When that happens, we all want good quality people showing up.”

Waterfield said that some of the trainees were a little nervous about confronting a live fire.

“A few of them had never been exposed to an interior structure fire like they were on that day,” he said.

“We brought everybody inside to experience the burn in what we call a campfire, and then broke them off into smaller groups. Once they got through that first burn, they seemed to relax and we got to do more complicated scenarios as we went along.”

Waterfield said it didn’t take long for the confidence level to grow.

“At the end of the day when we did a debriefing, one of them said they were ready to go back and do it again. That confidence is very important, because that was a controlled training environment. That won’t be the case when they are on the job. They have to be confident about being able to make entry into a fire and save somebody’s life,” he said.

Waterfield said that nothing comes close to live fire training to gain experience for new firefighters.

“Until you actually experience a fire, you can’t comprehend what it’s like. That’s why we try to get them hands on training as much as we can. To see the ‘I get it’ on their face when they are doing hands-on training is awesome. As an instructor, it makes you feel like you have done your job.”

The group will have their final testing this week, after which they will join area fire departments in various capacities.