Firemen walk towards a massive fire in a simulated tanker accident.
Firemen Come From All Over East Texas for Fire School, LIVINGSTON, February 28, 2010 - That large plume of smoke you saw when your were driving in the vicinity of Livingston on Saturday February 27, 2010 was SUPPOSED to be there. No, it wasn't a raging forest fire or a terrorist attack. Actually it was a simulated industrial fire that was set off intentionally as firefighters came from as far as Dallas, College Station and from all directions of East Texas to the Polk County Firemen's Training Facility to sharpen their skills and learn more about real life situations and disasters when lives are on the line. The school isn't free, these men volunteer their time, and pay money in order to drop whatever they're doing at a moment's notice and rush to save lives and property.
Not Just Fires... The classes covered house fires, car fires, industrial fires, gas fires, pipelines, etc, but there's more, they are also re schooled in the proper way to handle jaws-of-life equipment in the event of a turned over car, or a car that's been damaged so bad that the doors wont open and people are trapped inside. The school has vehicles turned completely upside down, some on their sides, and others just smashed up. The equipment is used in prying and cutting. In the event that Jaws aren't available, the firemen are schooled in using manual equipment in order to free a trapped person from a damaged vehicle.
Not Just Hands On... In addition to hands on experience, the firemen sit through classes and are verbally instructed on disasters and when to and when not to touch a vehicle. "There's times when a turned over vehicle is so delicate that we can do more harm than good." One instructor told PolkCountyToday.com, "Safety is first and foremost with everyone involved, including the firemen", he said. "Sometimes we have to wait for more men and equipment to arrive before we can touch a precarious situation", he said.
Close Comrades, Family Oriented... If you spend any time around these guys whether in a real life situation or class room/training simulation it doesn't take long to realize that this is a tight knit group that cares about eachother. They get dirty, muddy, stinky, sweaty, and are always a model of politeness and good will. Many of the firemen bring their wife and kids. Their families watch their heroes as they train and get schooled in the round robin style training. At noon time, all the raging infernos and car wrecks fell silent as the firemen broke for lunch and got in line to enjoy hamburger steak, mashed potatoes, green beans and iced tea. They eat together and relax on a day that featured picture perfect weather. Some laid back in the sun and dozed off for a power nap. It's family with these guys.
"Training is so important, it can be the difference between life and death" -- Livingston Fire Chief Corky Cochran
Next time you see a volunteer fireman, tell him thank you. If he's in a hurry and doesn't stop to talk, just get out of his way, he (or she) is probably on their way to help someone in a life or death situation.
If You're Interested in Volunteering... Stop by your local fire station and let 'em know. It's a serious commitment that can't be taken lightly (someone's life might will depend on it).