For the past five years, the Highland Fire house on Milton Avenue has been used as a training center for the Ulster County Firefighters Summer Program. The 21 day curriculum, with 185 hours of training, provides new firefighters with critical skills needed for them to safely and effectively do their jobs.
Recently, the Southern Ulster Times paid a visit. Fire Instructor William Farrell said he was teaching the firefighters how to properly bring a fire hose into a burning building.
“These are simulated doors and a hallway so that way they sharpen their skills as far as advancing hand lines in and perfecting that and will help them in the long run,” he said.
Farrell pointed to another group of firefighters who were being taught about the different types of hose nozzles and how to correctly use them to knock down a fire.
“They are pretty powerful depending on the type of nozzle,” he said. “Along with that, if you don’t have a guy who understands hydraulics pumping it, it might make it a little tougher as well.”
Farrell pointed out that they have a second firefighter crouching behind the main hose operator, “to combat the nozzle reaction.”
Everett Erichsen, Deputy Director for Emergency Services and Fire Coordinator for Ulster County, said the present group was given an orientation to the program in May.
“It’s a 16 hour orientation and we talked about the PBE’s [personal protective equipment], firefighter safety, how the class is going to work, history of the fire service, and they do a breathe down where they learn about their SCBA [Self Contained Breathing Apparatus], the inter-packs they wear and how long they actually have on it during a fire,” he said.
Before the firefighters returned on June 27 to start the class, they were given some skill sheets that they worked on at their home stations with their Chief officers. Erichsen said the class covers a wide range of training and situations: fire department communications, building construction, hose line advancement, proper use of the water supply and fire hydrants, fighting vehicle and structural fires, how to conduct primary and secondary searches, victim removal, tactical ventilation, ladder skills, use of fire extinguishers, forcible entry tactics, administering emergency medical care, HazMat issues and concerns, truck company operations, firefighter survival and how to stay safe.
Erichsen said Ulster and Cortlandt counties are the only two in New York that teach this program for new firefighters, which is under the auspices of New York State Fire Prevention Control.
“Basically we are taking six classes and we’re combining them into three weeks, all day,” he said. “Usually they only allow you to teach up to six hours a day, we teach nine hours a day in this program.”
Erichsen said he receives very positive feedback from the student firefighters as well as from the Chiefs of the different fire companies.
“The really like the amount of training that they’re getting in this class [and] their skill level is very, very high when they come out, which is very important. It’s a highly demanding class so they really need to be in it for the right reasons; they really have to commit the whole time and are here from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Erichsen said the program provides breakfast and lunch and water and juice to the participants, free of charge, courtesy of the Division of Fire Services.
Erichsen said certified instructors are provided through an outreach program from the NYS Office of Fire Prevention and Control as well as some from the Division of Fire Services for Ulster County.
“There are a lot of years of experience here,” he said. “This is a great program for the volunteer fire service. We need to provide aggressive training to ensure that our firefighters can perform to the best of their abilities when they’re called on and that they’re able to fall back to their training if they get into a risky situation and then return home to their loved ones.”
Erichsen made a pitch to join the fire service, pointing out that 49 of the 50 fire departments in Ulster County are staffed by volunteers.
“If you’re living in another community, stop by your local fire house and talk to them about volunteering because it is needed,” he said.
Erichsen said this summer program was attended by firefighters from numerous fire companies: Marlborough, Esopus, New Paltz, Centerville, Woodstock, Bloomington, Olive, Saxton, Malden, Grahamsville, Mountaindale, Cornwall and Arlington.
A graduation ceremony for this class is scheduled for July 22 at 6 p.m. at the Highland High School with firefighters in full dress uniform.