Center of attention

Firefighters lined the track of the grandstand at the Chautauqua County Fair Wednesday evening, but it was not to be on standby for safety reasons. The first-ever Countywide Firemen’s Demonstrations took to the track to make the firefighters the center of attention.

Departments from around the county demonstrated various fire safety measures, and had a chance to show off their individual and collective skills and equipment.

Fredonia Fire Department displayed Tower 18, which has a ladder and a bucket reaching more than 100 feet in the air. The truck was first purchased to reach the highest point in the village, Maytum Hall at SUNY Fredonia.

“It’s probably one of the most unique pieces in the county because of versatility,” Director of Emergency Services Julius Leone Jr. said. “You can really put that truck exactly where you need it.”

Lt. Randy Butts demonstrated how the truck is stabilized prior to a firefighter entering the bucket prior to taking a ride. The bucket can be moved in any direction and can be used in rescues below ground level.

The basket is stored in the middle of the truck, which makes it easier on the driver navigating down village streets and making tight turns, according to Leone. Another unique feature of the truck is a hose located on the bucket capable of pumping 2,000 gallons per minute. The bucket also has a sprinkler system which will keep a firefighter cool during intense blazes.

Dan Imfeld and Lance Hedlund, both of the County Hazmat Team, explained the team was started in 1982 following a fire at a plant as a precaution to protect firefighters. Two members of the team, which now consists of 55 members from 42 fire departments throughout the county, demonstrated how a team would look at a rail car spill. James Mays and Jameson Justin put on suits designed with an air supply and to keep out all chemicals. Suits have a one-hour supply of purified air, during which team members must get dressed, complete their mission and be decontaminated, Imfeld said.

He also said there are 170,000 rail cars that pass through Chautauqua County yearly that carry hazardous materials, so this is a plausible scenario. The two men in the suits rely on holding each other while walking due to lessen visibility. They used kits to secure spills and make sure the scene is safe for an outside source to clean the spill. All team members must go through a pre- and post-mission physical and each will have a follow-up phone call the next day. Members must stay hydrated prior to being in the suits and each has assistance to put on the suit.

The next demonstration was on the importance of residential fire sprinklers. John Przybycien of the New York State Office of Fire Prevention showed the audience how easy a trash can fire can spread and how the installation of fire sprinklers can prevent further property damage. He said 4,000 people die in the U.S. from fires and having a sprinkler and alarm system can increase survival chances by 80 percent. One misconception of a sprinkler system is when there is a fire, all sprinklers will be activated.

“Ninety percent of the time, just the sprinkler in the area where the alarm goes off is (activated),” Przybycien said.

Chautauqua Fire Department Chief Mark Powers demonstrated, with the help of two audience members, the importance of fire extinguishers. He said there are three types classified as A, B, or C. Ordinary fires involving wood, plastic or other material is under type A; flammable liquid fires involving gasoline or kerosene is classified under type B; and electrical fires involving live currents are classified under type C. To help remember what to do in case of emergency, Powers taught the acronym PASS – pull the pin out, aim at the base of the fire, squeeze the handle and sweep slowly across the base of the fire.

“Don’t turn your back on (the fire). It could flash back up,” Powers said in regard how to leave a fire.

Extinguishers should be placed in any area of the home where fire hazards are such as the kitchen or near a hot water tank. They should be placed between the potential fire hazard and the exit is and should be wall. Every time an extinguisher is picked up and placed back down, the agent inside gets mixed up which could cause failure during use. Extinguishers should be checked twice a year to ensure the gauge indicator is still green.

The County Fire Investigation Team, consisting of volunteer firemen and Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Officers, gave pointers on smoke alarm safety. The team goes out on about 60 calls per year, according to Scott Cummings of the team, and 70 percent of the time residences do not have working fire alarms. Any fire that does not have a working alarm has to be reported to New York state.

“Every 10 fires, seven out of 10 times, (smoke alarms) are not working,” he said.

Smoke alarms should be kept in the bedrooms as well as common areas near the bedrooms. There should also be a smoke detector on each level of the house. Cummings also said many fires are caused by candles and by space heaters in the winter months. Space heaters should be a minimum 12 inches from anything combustible material. The County Technical Rescue Team in addition to the Silver Creek Fire Department staged an extrication from a mock accident. Both departments and teams worked together to stabilize two vehicles stacked and an imaginary patient. The two cars were strapped together and duct tape was placed on the windows to prevent shattering when broken. The jaws of life were used to hinge back the doors and the roof so a patient could be taken out through the rear window. The actual extrication process took only nine minutes but it took much longer to stabilize the two vehicles.

“(An extrication) could take up to 30, 40 minutes or up until an hour,” Leone said. “With advanced in the field training and life saving tools, patient survival rates have increased.”

This was the first year the countywide demonstrations were held. Fair Director Lon Robinson said they wanted to show fairgoers exactly what the firefighters do daily.

“We used to a Firemen’s Parade but that faded,” he said. “We wanted to do something to show people what’s out there and what we really do.”

Robinson said the event went well for the first year. There is plans to bring the event back next year. To ensure safety of all the firefighters during the demonstrations, Hanover Center Fire Department was in attendance.

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