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Local departments train with Fire College officials

by Melissa Cason

Motorists passing by could see something was taking place Wednesday morning when fire trucks started lining Waterloo Road, just outside the Russellville city limits.

To many the need for emergency personnel didn’t seem obvious. But, it wasn’t an emergency. It was a simple training exercise for the new recruits attending the training course offered by the Florence Fire Department.

Florence Chief of Training Terry Buchanan said several departments from North Alabama were represented in this year’s firefighter training.

“We have firefighters from Florence, Haleyville, Hanceville and Cullman attending the school this year,” Buchanan said.

“We are putting everything we have learned in the last 13 weeks to use. This is the fun part. It’s like recess.”

During the training exercise, the recruits completed several job performance requirements needed to complete their certification.

Requirements included using a ladder and axes and going into a burning structure.

Fire recruit Dustin Simmons said going into the house was very intense and very hot.

“It was hot, but fun,” Simmons said.

Simmons is following his family’s path in the fire department.

“I have family in the fire department,” Simmons said. “It’s all I ever really wanted to do.”

Simmons isn’t alone.

Many firefighters go into the fire service because it was something they learned to love growing up.

Gabe Tucker, of Cullman, on the other hand, was a teacher before attending recruit school.

“I was a math teacher but now I am doing this and I am learning a lot,” Tucker said.

Tucker said Wednesday’s burn was his first time in a burning structure.

“I don’t know if I am what you’d call in love with going inside a burning building, but I don’t hate it,” Tucker said.

Buchanan said the firefighter portion of training will end next week, and the recruits will go into the Emergency Medical Technician portion of the training.

“Our fire department runs medical calls in addition to fire calls so it’s required that all firefighters have a least EMT-basic training,” Buchanan said.

In addition to the fire recruits receiving their training, several fire departments from Franklin County pitched to demonstrate the need for automatic mutual aid.

Tharptown Fire Chief Doug Hatton said there are two kinds of mutual aid. The type they have now is where a fire department requests help. The other type is automatic aid where the 911 call center dispatches out more than one fire department.

“Our county only has one full time paid department and we can better serve the county by having automatic aid to ensure a faster response time,” Hatton said.

The departments worked together during the training exercise to bring in water to fight the fire.

“We have Russellville and Haleyville here with their dump tanks and we are going to use this water to fight this fire,” Hatton said. “When there are no hydrants available, we have to use these tanks in order to get a water supply because we can’t fight a fire without water.”

Hatton said the county’s departments are just now getting these new tanks due to grants making it possible for the county to turn to automatic mutual aid.

“Before, we didn’t have this capability, but now that most of the departments have these tanks and big tankers, we can band together and work together to help better protect our county,” Hatton said.

The fire departments shuttled water from a hydrant down the road from the house to the dump tanks so the firefighters would have water to fight the fire.

“It works just like this in the county, where we don’t have many hydrants,” Hatton said.

The departments who assisted with the exercise included Blue Springs, Frankfort, Frog Pond, Tharptown, Muscle Shoals, Florence and Russellville fire departments.