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Firefighters practice in real-world conditions

July 05, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI /Staff Writer

LEITERSBURG - Walking into burning, smoke-filled building is hard enough. But finding the way out can be just as daunting, local firefighters say.

Firefighters can become disoriented and get lost, particularly if the building's layout is unfamiliar, as in some commercial sites, according to Leitersburg Volunteer Fire Co. Deputy Chief Kirk Mongan.

To help volunteers sharpen their skills and increase their safety, the Leitersburg Fire Co. hosted a search and rescue program at the old Leitersburg School on Leitersburg/Smithsburg Road Saturday morning.

More than 15 people from Leitersburg and the Longmeadow Volunteer Fire Co. participated in a series of exercises at the school.

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"It's a way to refamiliarize ourselves with the techniques" used during search-and-rescue fire operations, said Mongan.

Leitersburg holds the training sessions a few times a year, he said.

"Residential buildings are pretty much laid out the same, but these exercises help us find our way around commercial buildings because of the school's long corridors and stairs," he said.

The former school's design has similarities to a supermarket or church, he said.

Two of the structure's three stories were used by firefighters who practiced walking along walls, carrying hoses up stairs and using ladders.

They also searched for "victims" and fire sources, he said.

The building's boarded-up windows made it pitch dark and close to what an actual fire scene would be like, he said.

The Leitersburg Fire Co. runs more than 250 calls a year and 75 percent of them are fires, he said.

Longmeadow firefighters of all experience levels benefit from participating in Leitersburg training sessions, said Chief Richard M. Roche.

"Anytime we have the opportunity to take advantage of a hands-on situation, we hate to turn it down," said Roche.

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