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Fire companies compete in Berkeley County

August 11, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - "We killed several people yesterday," said Dr. Bill Ramsey, describing a hot air balloon crash Saturday at a farm pond near Marlowe.

Ramsey, the West Virginia state EMS Director, was speaking figuratively about the mock casualties in the staged exercise.

The crash scenario sent the balloon through some trees into the pond, leaving the gondola sitting on a dock, its propane tank leaking and an unconscious man inside.

Adding to the mock mayhem, according to the emergency medicine physician from Morgantown, was a hysterical passenger who jumped into the water - but couldn't swim - another passenger lying face down in the pond and a third lying partially in the water. The last one tripped up several of the rescue teams because there was a downed power line lying across the person's body.


That was the "Superstar" event in the 22nd annual West Virginia EMS & Firefighters Competition, held at a number of sites Friday through Sunday in Berkeley County, according to Vanessa Ball, the president of the competition committee.

This was the first time it was held in the Eastern Panhandle, where it was hosted by the Emergency Services Training and Resource Network, based in Inwood, W.Va.

George Perry, ESTRN's secretary, said other competitions included an exercise for paramedics, a vehicular rescue, a scenario for emergency medical technicians, a firefighters' competition, a structural rescue exercise and several other events. Eighteen teams from around the state took part in the events.

In the structural rescue, the scenario had three people rappelling off Martinsburg High School, when one slid down the rope, struck a tree and was knocked unconscious. The other two were trapped in mid-air, said competition committee member Rick Scott.

As the 30-minute time limit ticked away, the Bayer Corp. team from New Martinsville, Wetzel County, was still trying to figure out how to get the two stranded victims down. Team member Wayne Weber explained that the chemical plant has a structural rescue team of its own.

Afterward, they critiqued their own performance with Weber noting, "You learn a lot more by what you do wrong."

"If this were easy, we'd have 100 teams here competing," teammate Ted Koerber added.

"This is an excellent learning experience here," said teammate Mark Cochran.

Perry said ESTRN is a non-profit group that does training and classes for paramedics and EMTs in an eight-county region. It holds its own regional competition, which Perry called the "EMS Olympics," in June.

Winners in the three-day competition included the Hedgesville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department for the combat challenge; the Charleston Fire Department for water search and rescue; Teays Valley Fire Department for firefighting and vehicular rescue; Harrison County EMS for the EMT competition; Jan Care Ambulance in the CPR/driving, paramedic and structural competitions and the Marion County EMS in the superstars competition.

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