By Mark Gunderman, Communications Specialist, CVTC
Ladders are usually among a firefighter’s best friends, but they can be a burden on occasion.
Firefighters from 15 west central Wisconsin departments agreed that ladders posed their toughest challenge last Saturday (Oct. 7) as they prepared for a state certification test. At a new training facility on the west campus of Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC), the firefighters set a tall ladder reaching three stories up, then climbed it while carrying another ladder on their backs.
The idea was to hook that fourth ladder over the crown of the roof. That was just one of several challenges the firefighters practiced as they prepared for the test.
As you’re reading this, we are in the midst of Fire Prevention Week, which runs from Oct. 8-14, and firefighters are urging people to educate themselves about what they can do to prevent or react to fires. But fire safety also involves having well-trained firefighters who are continually improving their level of preparedness.
The CVTC facilities in Eau Claire enhance the training of the next generation of firefighters through CVTC’s FireMedic program. In addition, they are excellent resources for the training programs of area fire departments.
“In the fall and spring we bring in firefighters from all over the area,” said Chris McHenry, FireMedic program director at CVTC.
“Not all schools with firefighting programs have the certification exam, so people from those areas come here. We have 750 students a year come through the college for firefighter training, a lot for continuing education for members of local volunteer fire departments,” he said.
McHenry added that such new equipment and facilities is not just a benefit to students entering the CVTC FireMedic program. They also strengthen the cause of fire safety throughout the region.
Adding to CVTC facilities and equipment
This year, CVTC made two major additions to its facilities and equipment.
The CVTC fleet of fire trucks now features a new Pierce fire truck equipped with the latest W. S. Darley & Co. pump manufactured in Chippewa Falls. And testing preparation stations were set up around a multi-faceted three-story “splash tower.”
“Every certified firefighter has to raise a ladder and go to the peak of the building,”McHenry said. “The building we had for that was older and contractors told us it wasn’t safe to repair.”
The splash tower is taller, and has four open windows for students or firefighters to practice entering a building from an upper-story window. “We can raise four ladders at a time in this building,” McHenry said. “And in this facility, it’s safe for the students to get down.”
“Students can practice ladder evacuations in a non-emergency setting, so we can take the procedures step by step,” said Chad Peterson, CVTC instructor and an Eau Claire firefighter.
The third floor of the structure is used for ropes training. Firefighters and students can rappel off the structure. The safest way to come down, of course, is by the stairs – which are also handy for firefighters to practice carrying down an injured patient.
“The first floor has restricted passage areas,” McHenry said. “Like trying to crawl between two wall studs with an air pack on. CVTC welding students built a frame to create confined space access points.”
Other CVTC departments will be able to use the facility as well. McHenry noted that the versatility of the facility was due mostly to the design efforts by CVTC faculty and staff, with people from different disciplines contributing ideas on features.
New Fire Truck
The program’s new fire truck comes with specifications that make it usable not just in training but in real emergency fire situations.
“The truck is set up for National Fire Protection Association Standards, so it can be used by the city of Eau Claire if they ever needed it on a call,” Peterson said.
The truck replaced an 18-year-old vehicle that had already undergone some major repairs, McHenry said.
“CVTC has long had two fire trucks,” he said. “The trucks are used pretty extensively for driving training and for pumping at training burns. Our students will use it many hours; it will get more wear-and-tear than a city fire truck.”
At the firefighter testing practice session, the new truck was used to pump for scenarios inside a mobile fire trailer and as a setting for practice setting up a water supply at a fire.
“The truck can be moving and pumping at the same time,” McHenry said. “With other trucks, you can’t do that. Fire truck technology has changed substantially.”
Note: the photo on the home page shows Owen-Withee-Curtis District Firefighter Lori McGuire, center, controlling a fire hose with the help of Altoona firefighters at the CVTC firefighter training area last Saturday (Oct. 7). Firefighters from 15 departments practiced for a state certification test. In the background is the multi-use three-story “splash tower” built this year.