Saturday, July 17, 1999

Firefighters Focusing on Safety

Firefighters Focusing on Safety
Training sessions teach specialized techniques for efficient rescue
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

Most fire fighters worry about the safety of others at the scene of a fire before they think of themselves.

However, the focus is on firefighter safety this week as the Ann Arbor Fire Department hosts 16 veteran firefighters from southeast Michigan as part of a statewide effort to teach specialized safety techniques.

The Rapid Integration Team training program is being conducted at an abandoned building at 436 S. Main Street that will be demolished in the next few weeks. The program focuses on teaching firefighters quick and effective methods of firefighter rescue.

Another firefighter team is working with makeshift structures at the Resource Recovery Center landfill.

Jim Baldwin, the Ann Arbor Fire Department bureau chief will help firefighters approach their work differently.

“For years and years and years, we’ve practiced saving occupants of buildings,” he said. “But we’ve never really done—on a formal basis—enough to save our own people.”

Each graduate of this “train the trainer” program will go to their local departments and teach others what they have learned.

During the course, firefighters review ways to tear down walls, ceilings and floors as quickly as possible. They also practice hoisting methods for injured firefighters using mannequins and other trainees.

According to many of the course participants, rescuing firefighters can be difficult because of the uniform and firefighting equipment which can weigh up to 70 pounds.

The annual firefighter mortality rate is about 100 in the United States, according to National Fire Protection Association statistics.

Last year, the federal government passed a bill mandating that three or fewer firefighters cannot enter a burning structure until they have backups.

Baldwin said Ann Arbor is one of the first cities in Michigan to train individuals using new rescue techniques, allowing the fire department to “better comply with the law.”

“This is probably the greatest thing that I’ve ever worked on,” said Lt. Don Fisher, of the Ann Arbor Fire Department and a 28-year fire department veteran.

Fisher said the training continues Ann Arbor’s “progressive” tradition. He and four other firefighters helped develop the program curriculum at Michigan State University.

Fisher and Baldwin will start training all the 120 Ann Arbor firefighters in the next few months. Baldwin said training should be completed by the end of the year.

Full funding for the training was provided by a $50,000 federal grant.

Photo Caption: Ypsilanti Firefighter Fred Williams lowers Lt. Dave Fisher, of the Ann Arbor Fire Department, from a second-story window as party of a training session in Ann Arbor.
Photo Credit: Alan Warren
Originally published Thursday, June 17, 1999