By RACHEL C. DOVE
WILLIAMSON - How many times have you been sitting on a roadway stuck in traffic because an accident that has occurred, and instead of considering the severity of the situation and the time that it takes to complete all the necessary steps to remove the victim from the wreckage and clear the scene, you become impatient and upset?
This was a question put forth by an instructor as he addressed those who attended the “Heavy, Heavy Rescue” hands-on training during the Fifth Annual Mingo County Fire School held this past weekend on the campus of the Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College (SWVCTC) and at two other locations in the Fairview community of Williamson.
The class was taught by three professional instructors who have traveled across the United States sharing their wisdom and years of experience with students who attend fire schools similar to the one held in Williamson. Students gain vital knowledge from the instructor’s expertize that will allow them to face heavy rescue accidents with confidence and newly acquired skills.
Paul Niedbalski Jr. and Darin Virag, both from the Charleston Fire Department, along with Steve Cavander, the Assistant Chief with the Point Pleasant Fire Department, held classes on Saturday and Sunday in Fairview on the parking lot of the former Price Motor Company where they had set up several accident scenarios containing large trucks, a school bus and other heavy equipment versus private vehicles.
Approximately 15 firefighters participated in the heavy rescue class, representing eight different departments. They worked together as a team on complex situations that required the advanced skills of raising equipment with lifting air bags, stabilization and cribbing. They faced the task of removing multiple mannequins (patients) who were trapped inside the crushed vehicles, while others were penned underneath the wreckage.
One such scenario involved a school bus that had flipped onto its side, landing on a car and a van. During the process of trying to free the “trapped victims,” fire erupted inside the bus, creating another crisis that had to be promptly and adequately dealt with.
The instructors spoke highly of the Mingo County Fire School, and said that out of the 30 plus schools they conduct yearly across the United States, they rate this one in the top three.
“We always look forward to the Mingo County Fire School,” said Niedbalski. “The Fire Chief’s Association has done a great job with planning this event.”
Classes that were taught in the 2012 school included CPR, the Firefighter Endurance Challenge, Auto Awareness Operations, Emergency Vehicle Driver Training, Basic Structural Firefighting, Crime Scene Diagraming and several others.
There were 28 fire departments that sent firefighters to the school, with the farthest traveling from Monongalia County. Saturday’s classes accommodated 146 students, with an additional 18 arriving on Sunday.
“We were very pleased with the turn out for this year’s fire school,” said Williamson Fire Chief Jerry Mounts, who also serves as the President of the Fire Chief’s Association. “We greatly appreciate all the businesses and agencies that contributed, including those that donated wrecked vehicles for us to use in our accident scenarios.
“I want to say a special thank you to the Mingo County Commission who provided financial assistance that was crucial to the fire school taking place, and to Carl Baisden with the Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College Mining Academy for allowing us to use the mannequins for our classes.”
It became apparent during the heavy rescue class to those observing that there is a lot more to the techniques that must be mastered to successfully perform such a rescue, and it was a comforting thought to see that many of our firefighters have been trained by the best of the best, with instructors Niedbalski, Virag and Cavander.
“We’re very blessed to be able to have these guys as instructors, and we’re already looking forward to what they’ll bring to the table during next year’s school,” said Mounts.