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Shaler Area firefighters approved for weekend training at old Rogers school

| Monday, April 25, 2016, 4:18 p.m.

More than a year after Shaler firefighters responded to a fire at Rogers Primary they will return to the school, but this time to train in the unique environment the school provides to them.

“The opportunity was there for us to use this,” said Jim Tunstall, the Millvale Fire Department's chief and a Shaler Area school director. “The Shaler Area administration and school board thought it was a great idea. The fire departments are appreciative. It's going to be a win-win for everybody.”

The nine volunteer fire departments in the Shaler Area School District's territory will take part in a session with Maryland-based Traditions Training LLC, a fire training company, on May 21 and 22 at the closed Rogers Primary.

Tunstall said they will go through a variety of exercises including simulated smoke scenarios, ladder and hose training, rapid intervention and downed firefighter training.

The school board on April 20 approved the use of the Rogers Primary building, which is set to be demolished in June, as a site for training purposes for the Bauerstown, Cherry City, Elfinwild, Etna, Millvale, Reserve, Shalervilla, Sharpshill and Undercliff volunteer fire departments.

A new two-story primary school will be built at the site on Scott Avenue.

A fire was reported at Rogers Primary, which housed students in K-3, around 8:45 a.m. Saturday, April 4, 2015. The fire was contained to a mechanical room, but there was smoke damage throughout the building.

When Tunstall joined the school board in December and found out Rogers was scheduled to be demolished in the spring, he pitched the training site idea to a few local fire chiefs,

“Training helps us keep up our skills,” Tunstall said. “Not often do we get to take the time to train and be ready in a commercial building like this.”

Each department has a weekly training night and occasionally they train together, but this will be the first time all nine Shaler Area fire departments have done a joint training, Tunstall said.

The training is open to 90 firefighters, 10 from each department. If a department does not fill a spot, Tunstall said it will be offered to other local departments outside the school district.

Reserve Fire Chief Dave Moore said a few fire equipment companies have stepped up to help sponsor the training. Cutters Edge is donating five training saws for the weekend “so that we don't have to tear up our own equipment,” Moore said.

Kaza Fire and 1-800-BOARDUP are donating lunches for the weekend, and 1-800-BOARDUP also is donating plywood to patch the building back up after training, Moore said.

During training they'll be cutting holes in the roof to practice ventilation techniques, which is important for firefighters who rarely get to train on metal decking roofs such as the one on Rogers, Moore said.

“We'll also be forcing doors to practice how we'd gain entry to a building,” Moore said. “Doors on commercial buildings are a lot more difficult to force than residential doors. Not to mention stretching hose lines, throwing ladders… It's going to be a very good weekend.”

Rachel Farkas is a contributing writer for the Tribune-Review.

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