Kittanning's firefighters use vacant house for training purposes
KITTANNING -- It wasn't a real fire, but it was the next thing to it.
For the firefighters from Kittanning hose companies 1, 4 and 6 who participated in a drill at a vacant three-story house on Union Avenue last night, it was an opportunity to gain some valuable training and experience.
Fire crews were able to do search and rescue work using smoke machines, rapid intervention teamwork and even simulated a firefighter trapped by a collapsed wall.
They cut holes in the roof, used a chainsaw to cut down a window to the floor for a bigger opening and made contact with a dummy firefighter, changed its air source and then pulled it out to safety.
Ford City Rescue provided the light tower for extra lighting for the exercise.
"We don't get the opportunity that often to drill together with the three companies," said Earl "Buzz" Kline, Kittanning Hose Co. 4 chief, of the drills. "It sharpens each guys skills and builds their confidence in the other guys."
The fire companies are asked by borough council to do these types of drills four times a year to comply with fire standards, Kline said.
Kline thanked the building's owner, Mike Shafer, for its use. The house had severe damage to the third floor from a fire that occurred in August.
Shafer, who owns an air conditioning and heating business across the street, said he plans to start having the house torn down today and eventually move his business onto the lot.
"The firemen asked me if they could use it for training purposes," Shafer said. "If they have new recruits coming in they need the training. There was so much damage done to it and it's an old property. I'm glad they can get some training use out of it.
"If you ever have a fire you would only hope that these firemen have this training."
Scott Kline, Kittanning Hose Co. 6 chief, heads up his fire company's Rapid Intervention Team, known as an RIT.
Kittanning 6's RIT is the primary one for Armstrong County. The unit serves 11 municipalities in the county and has been in service for five years.
Scott Kline said it took nearly $52,000 worth of equipment in addition to the equipment they already had to get the RIT established.
National fire standards require an RIT be on location for any structure fire just to cover the safety of the firefighters at the scene, Scott Kline said.
The RIT hasn't been used for a downed firefighter but was put into service when a firefighter in Burrell Township was trapped inside his burning home, Scott Kline said.
Scott Kline said RIT rescue equipment consists of a number of items.
There are rescue air packs to take to a trapped firefighter to extend the air supply.
A power hawk system, a set of jaws that runs off a battery pack instead of off hydraulics, is used as a tool in confined spaces.
A stokes basket takes equipment into the fire and brings firefighters out.
A lighted rope, a system made up of red, green and white lights, lights the way in a fire. Red means you're going toward the fire and green is away from the fire.
A thermal imaging camera picks up body temperature and fire areas above firefighters.
"We use anything we need to make the aspects come out positive," Scott Kline said. "Firefighting is one of the 10 most dangerous jobs in the United States. You can never be too careful fighting fires.
"Our firemen are getting the experience that might save their lives some day."