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Ligonier's first responders hone skills with drills

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 9:04 p.m.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Lea Forbes of the Pleasant Unity Volunteer Fire Department cuts a hole into the wall of a vacant building in Ligonier on Monday, June 24, 2013. Several of the area's fire departments were on site for the training session
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Andrew Flower of the Ligonier Volunteer Fire Department breaks out a window at a vacant building in Ligonier on Monday, June 24, 2013. Several of the area's fire departments were on site for the training session

When it comes to the safety of fellow firefighters, members of Ligonier-area fire departments are at the top of the ladder. Monthly drill nights keep the first responders current and well-practiced for any type of emergency situation.

Our state motto is “Everybody goes home,” said Paul Church fire chief of Ligonier Volunteer Hose Co. No. 1. “I want to make sure we all have the proper training on how to rescue to make sure everybody goes home.”

Ligonier Station No. 43 is part of the Ligonier Valley Fire Companies — including Darlington Station No. 42, Waterford Station No. 44 and Wilpen Station No. 45.

Recently, the Ligonier Valley YMCA provided an opportunity for the group to conduct fire safety training in a Market Street building it purchased and slated for demolition.

“The Y approached us to see if we were interested in using the building for training purposes and said it was at our disposal,” said Church.

Ben Wright executive director of the Y said the building could provide a location to conduct specialized training without worrying about damage to the building.

“The Y is all about community and being a part of that community is to see that everyone is safe,” said Wright. “If we can provide a resource for local fire or police departments to help them train, we are always going to be willing to work with them to make that happen.”

The first training activities began in March. Since that time, four training sessions have taken place — the most recent on June 24 — prior to the building's demolition.

“The Y coming to us is an outreach to the entire community. It makes us better prepared in turn benefits everybody in the responders area,” he said. “This shows how community groups can work together.”

Other fire companies from Bradenville, Lloydsville, Derry, Fairfield and New Florence benefited from the training.

“The first wave of training was provided to Lloydsville and Bradenville,” said Church. “We are training them to recover firefighters.”

They are the designated Rapid Intervention Team — a team of two or more firefighters dedicated solely to the search and rescue of other firefighters in distress. They have no other operational assignment during an incident.

“These RIT guys go in and rescue firefighters. They go into the smoking building, which we simulate by using a fog machine,” said Church “It provides the experience the responders need for an actual rescue.”

In addition to the May Day or RIT drills, hose advancement techniques and search and rescue drills were conducted in the former Dairy Queen building.

Church said more than 100 firefighters have been trained at the building.

On June 24, the training session was dedicated to truck work. Fire service pumpers and trucks and aerial devices from Ligonier, Pleasant Unity, Somerset, Westmont and Salt Lick Township participated.

“A lot goes on during a fire. The truckees do the main search and rescue,” said Church.

“They vent the building and do the initial search for victims. Then the engine guys follow with the hose lines.”

The Ligonier hose company is an all-volunteer organization with 50 members. Church said 15-20 responders respond at any given event. All of the volunteers have the opportunity to receive training on a regular basis.

“We have people with all kinds of different qualifications on our crews. We do seminars and classes and we go to seminars,” said Church.

Many have added skills and responsibilities like Rescue Captain Chris Tantlinger who is also a member of the Westmoreland County Hazardous Materials Response Team.

Church said he looks at the rescue team as a big tool box. The more they know the better trained they are.

“We have to be ready for life and death situation in a heart beat. There are times we must get up from a sound sleep to fight a fire,” he said. “So we grab our “tool box” and make decisions that could be life or death. We save lives and have to be prepared in that order. It gives us the opportunity to hone our many skills. Practice makes perfect, afterall.”

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or

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