“We go into buildings to help people. When we get trapped we have no one to call on but ourselves,” said Marc Oshry, a firefighter/paramedic at the Rockland Fire Dept.
Oshry is one of many members of the fire department who’s been undergoing emergency training this week.
They’ve been learning how to save themselves from smoke and fire, in emergency situations such as malfunctioning or damaged equipment.
“You have to remember the gear that we have on us, we probably double the weight of a civilian we might rescue,” deputy Bill Ferguson said last week.
“So it’s different tactics trying to get one of these guys out. But having these skills, we can apply them to trying to get a civilian out. It improves our rescue capabilities.”
Oshry and other firefighters hung from ropes, climbed ladders and crawled through boards as part of a Rapid Intervention training seminar, a program that was paid for by a $135,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Oshry co-wrote the grant with fellow Rockland firefighter/paramedic Charles Williams.
“The grant itself was for a number of different things,” Oshry said. “We were able to do the Rapid Intervention program for all of our firefighters, so they can save themselves. It was to get people to cover for us while we were training. We would never be able to do this training while on shift because we got entangled into props. We’re diving on ropes. We never would have been able to go off on a call and go into the public.”
Oshry said the grant also covered a variety of tools such as Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) packs, which are air bottles that firefighters wear on their backs to buy time that might allow a firefighter to escape.
The grant also covered personal tools such as wire cutters so the firefighters could free themselves if they were to become trapped.
A large portion of the grant was used to purchase an air compressor for the Rockland Fire Station so firefighters can fill their RIT packs in their own town. Previously the firefighters had to report to fire stations in neighboring communities to fill the bottles.
“It would take men away from their shift to do that,” Oshry said. “Now we can just do it right here, saving time and manpower.”
Rapid Intervention training started Sept. 22 and will be held through Oct. 6 at the Rockland Fire Station as well as the Barnstable Fire Academy, and was available to all full-time members of the Rockland Fire Department.
Rapid Intervention teaches firefighters to recognize hazards, keep safe and know their equipment
“This is training that [ensures] we know how to rescue our own people,” Ferguson said. “It’s intensive training. It’s teaching skills and techniques for firefighters that are down or trapped.”
The program included in-depth classroom instruction as well as training with ladders, air masks and how to conduct a large area search.
There were also rescue drills from high storage areas where firefighters might be caught, and other drills carried out under live fire and smoke conditions.
Firefighters also used the Codman building on Plain Street on to practice rescue and bail out drills.
“It’s being renovated to apartment buildings,” Fire Chief Michael Sammon said Wednesday.
“They’re in the process of doing that now, but they gave us a wing of that building to use. It was to simulate a firefighter being trapped in a building and finding his way out.”
This is the third grant the Rockland Fire Department has received, totaling more than $550,000 in the past few years, Oshri said.
These state-aid grants assisted the town in purchasing a new fire engine in 2003, then new state-of-the-art rescue gear and updated air packs in 2004, as well as a washer at the station that gently cleans uniforms and helps them last longer.
Reporter Mikaela Slaney may be reached at MSlaney@cnc.com.