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  • Last modified 71 days ago (Sept. 14, 2017)

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Firefighters sharpen skills at Marion training event

Staff writer

Firefighters from Marion County and a large portion of the state trained over the weekend at Marion.

Kansas State Firefighters Association held regional fire school Saturday and Sunday. Training is a mixture of both classroom and hands-on practice.

Coming from as far away as Oberlin, 45 firefighters, new and seasoned, gathered to sharpen their skills.

Chris Mercer, state fire marshal investigator, demonstrated his chemical-sniffing dog Bingo during a classroom session. The 26-month-old yellow Labrador retriever alerts to the odor of combustible chemicals.

Hands-on training was given on farm rescue and vehicle extrication, fire reporting, forcible entry to buildings, and battling fires in a KSFFA burn trailer.

During extrication training, firefighters were taught to stabilize a car so they are not themselves injured before trying to remove a door. Wedges and braces are placed underneath the car and a heavy chain can be placed underneath the engine or trunk to keep the car from tipping as doors are first pried open and then cut away to rescue occupants.

Other training given was grain elevator fires, engine company operations, wildland fires, ventilation, oil tank battery fires, water supply, vehicle fires, and lessons learned.

Steve Hirsch, KSFFA secretary and volunteer firefighter at Oberlin, spoke to firefighters about high suicide rates among firefighters and emergency medical responders. Representatives of the 10-33 Foundation, which provides prevention and intervention services for first responders in crisis, were at the training to raise awareness of their program.

Hirsch said rural firefighters are especially likely to suffer stress.

“For firefighters, especially in a rural community, it’s not uncommon that the incidents they respond to are going to be their friends or neighbors,” Hirsch said. “After you’ve been on 10 or 20 years and it builds, a lot of times they don’t see any way out, and unfortunately they take it out on their family.”

Hirsch said he’s aware of three or four incidents in Kansas where first responders have taken their own lives.

The 10-33 Foundation tries to make sure first responders are able to cope and other responders are able to recognize the signs of crisis among their colleagues.

“The trick is you deal with them in a way that is appropriate,” Hirsch said.

Last modified Sept. 14, 2017

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