Community members experience life as a Perrysville firefighter

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 5:42 p.m.

The Perrysville Volunteer Fire Department's Station 248 is open to visitors every Monday night, for tours and conversations with firefighters there.

Those who stop by one of the department's training sessions, which start at 7 p.m., might be taking a first step toward becoming a volunteer, Perrysville fire Chief Eric Wissner said.

Wissner, 43, and most members of his company also showed six people the art and science of firefighting during a “Firefighter for a Weekend” event last month at the station in Ross Township.

The men and women crawled through a smoky building dressed in full firefighters' gear in search of “survivors.”

“The windows were blacked out, and all we had to rely on was our sense of feel,” said Andrew Koleck, 26, of Franklin Park.

Team members wearing 50 pounds of equipment hunkered down to their knees to get an idea of what a fire rescue would be like.

Wissner has hosted the events in each of the last three years.

Allison Bennett, 19, of Ross took the training because her father, Jeff, is vice president of the department.

“I thought I'd experience it for myself, put myself through it,” she said. “There I was in 80-degree weather in a suit and mask carving into a roof with a chainsaw.”

By the second day, her legs were sore as she took part in activities such as dragging a 180-pound dummy.

“I learned about myself,” the University of Pittsburgh sophomore said. “It was a self-strengthening thing. It built confidence and how even more rewarding it is for the firefighters who get to save lives.”

Perrysville has 20 active members; three are women. Wissner has been chief for six years, and has been involved in firefighting for 27 years. He joined the Perrysville company at age 16 with his brother.

Both men now are career firefighters — Wissner at Pittsburgh International Airport and his brother with Bellevue's fire department.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

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