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Firefighters compete in skill exercises at annual event

August 13, 2005|BY DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

Life takes some funny twists sometimes.

After five years working at a Kosovo hospital with the U.S. Army Reserve, Jan-Care Tactical Trauma Team EMT Charles Seay found himself 35 feet in the air on Friday in a former Maytag facility in Ranson, a coffee can filled with water attached to his helmet, searching blindly for a horn that dangled from a rope above his head.

It would have been easy enough to tilt his head back and find the horn, but then he would spill the water. After a few misses, he finally grasped the object, squeezed it to let out a quacking sound, and his teammates applauded and helped lower him down again.

"It wasn't in eye view, you had to search around for it," he said with a grin, coffee-can water and sweat still beading his forehead. "It was fun. A little nerve-wracking, but this is what we've been training for."

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Seay was the freshman on Jan-Care's competitive team, one of 15 competing through Sunday in the 30th annual West Virginia EMS/Firefighter Competition at the Ranson Civic Center. None of the event's participants knew precisely what they would be doing starting Friday. The event is hosted this year by the Jefferson County Ambulance Association.

Competition committee President George E. Perry said starting today, each of the teams will be sequestered, called out individually and transported by shuttle to their exercise sites. The teams, using only the equipment provided to them at their secret locations, will be put into real-life scenarios without any ability to preplan.

The event kicked off with Superstars, during which the teams perform routine field exercises with unusual twists. In one, the teams use Hurst Jaws of Life equipment, tools normally used for vehicle extrications, to skin apples and carry eggs from one point to another. In another, a team of four from the Community and Technical College of Shepherd painstakingly struggled to maintain their balance as they walked over crisscrossed telephone poles while carrying a fifth member in a Stokes basket.

The team only made it about three-quarters of the way before they ran out of time.

Craig Horn, team captain of the CTC team, said he was disappointed with his showing in the event, but felt his fellow members responded well just the same. It was the first time all five competed together in the annual competition.

"Teamwork, patience, working together," Horn listed as the essentials of the exercise, vowing to do better next year. "We all worked together and did the best we could."

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