HAMLIN—“When the alarm goes off, it doesn’t matter. If it’s in your blood, you’re there.”
The above sentiment, spoken by Ledgedale Fire Department Deputy Chief Jim Sledzinski, encapsulated the tone last Thursday, when six local companies gathered for an impromptu training at the
Hamlin Fire Department training grounds.
Volunteer firefighters from the, Lake Ariel, Lakeville, Ledgedale, Maplewood and Moscow companies leapt into action to assist Hamlin Fire Company in a “full exercise,” a training routine which activates neighboring departments to respond as if it were an active fire, explained Hamlin Deputy Fire Chief, Steve Price.
None but Hamlin knew the drill was scheduled before the tones went out but responded all the same to aid the simulation.
Simulating a call to 911
Dispatch, it took less than 30 seconds for all the pagers in the Hamlin Fire Hall to chitter and chirp as dispatch tones called them to action.
Less than four minutes later, apparatus were mobile as the turnout-clad crew ventured toward the training site.
Arriving on scene a stone’s throw from the fire hall, Hamlin Fire Chief Gene Koch established incident command and two, two-person crews unloaded hand-line hoses to begin watering the area.
The teams split to cover both the front and rear entrance to the house with lines charged and water active on scene in a few minutes.
These crews are tasked with “... attacking the base of the fire, getting that knocked down so the search crews can do a better job of searching,” said Koch.
Time is of the essence when engaging a fire as some modern dwellings with open floor plans and synthetic furniture fabrics can be engulfed in as little as two minutes according to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA).
One of Hamlin’s hose teams entered and ascended the stairs to the second story where they proceeded to eject a stream of water out of the window.
Price explained this is known as “hydraulic ventilation.”
“You find a window, you open the nozzle, and you spray out the window...,” said Price. “It pulls the smoke out with it to give you a bit of visibility inside the structure.”
Packed with smoke, simulated during training with a non-toxic fog machine, the building interior was black as a peat bog, the only light supplied by flashlights on the firemen’s packs.
About twenty minutes after the call went out, the first back up began rolling in, including a ladder truck and several tankers.
Ladder 68, from Maplewood Fire Company, immediately set up, stretched its 70-foot ladder arm to a lofty position above the roofline and rained down on and around the structure to saturate the area.
“Our main duty tonight was to provide an elevated master stream for the fire,”
explained Maplewood Lieutenant, Steve Piotrowski. “It’s a large amount of water from a high point on the aerial device. It’s to assist hand-lines and ground personnel.”
From the ladder’s bucket, Maplewood Captain, Nick Corazzi explained its two nozzles, one smooth bore, the other a combination nozzle.
Of the latter, Corazzi said, “We can make it a fog pat- tern or a straight stream.”
The Captain added of the fog pattern, “...you could use that for vapor disbursement.”
Of the unexpected training, Piotrowski stated, “we need these drills to see what we’re all capable of if we, God forbid, if we do have an emergency.”
Tankers supplied by several companies quickly worked to set up porta-ponds, rectangular enclosures to house several thousand gallons of water for hoses and ladders to pump from.
Once the ponds were set up, the tankers ran a circuit ferrying water from a supply site at Evergreen Elementary to the ponds to keep a steady supply of water on site.
“We have areas pre- identified as fill sites,” said Price, naming areas in and around Hamlin, Ledgedale and Lake Ariel where tankers can meet up with supply trucks to fill up.
Lake Ariel Volunteer Fire Company President Al Rae ran operations at the fill site with the company’s supply truck.
“We got two lines in here,” said Rae, noting the inlet and outlet hoses feeding into the pond via a floating dock which kept them from scraping bottom and clogging.
“There’s probably about 4,000 gallons of water so far we’ve taken out and put back in,” said Rae, noting it takes around five minutes to fill a tanker depending on how much it holds.