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Conference Saturday for fire and rescue officials

April 25, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

Scenario: Flames are shooting from a house and firefighters rush in, hoses in hand. But when the fire is out, do they remember any important clues that might be useful to investigators sifting through the ashes later?

Scenario: Rescue workers charge into a crime scene in a desperate attempt to save a person. After the rescue, though, has valuable evidence been disturbed?

These are among the complicated questions that fire and rescue volunteers face - and sometimes do not consider - according to officials. Michael Lida, an emergency medical technician with the Williamsport Volunteer Ambulance Service, has organized a conference this Saturday to deal with those questions.

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The conference - the "Emergency Responders Training Symposium" - is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Williamsport High School. It is free to anyone, said Lida, who added he expects at least 50 fire and rescue volunteers.

Lida said the conference will include presentations by the Maryland State Police, a Washington County Sheriff's Department criminal investigator and the state fire marshal's office. There also will be a stress management session organized by a Washington County Hospital registered nurse, he said.

Lida said volunteers are dedicated and hardworking but often have little understanding about how their work relates to jobs performed by police officers and investigators.

For instance, he said determining the cause of a blaze is much easier for fire investigators if firefighters know what to look details to look for - like whether a light switch was on or off.

"Most of the firefighters don't even know what the fire marshal does," Lida said.

Similarly, Lida said rescue workers will be taught how to save people's lives without making it harder for officials investigating the cause of an accident or the details of a crime.

"You (must) know what to disturb and what not to disturb," he said.

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