Training attracts firefighters statewide

The Inter-Mountain photos by Amanda Hayes The Buckhannon Fire Department hosted a two-day course on Thursday and Friday for firefighters from around West Virginia to teach them effective use of thermal imaging cameras.

BUCKHANNON — Firefighters from around West Virginia tightened the nozzle on a two-day class aimed at helping them save lives through effective use of thermal imaging cameras.

Thomas Anderson, of insight Fire Training and lead instructor for the Enhanced Search Methodology course hosted by the Buckhannon Fire Department, said thermal imaging cameras allow firefighters to locate victims 70 percent faster and with a 99 percent efficiency.

“Today, we are teaching how to search a building using a thermal imaging camera,” Anderson said Thursday afternoon. “A thermal imaging camera is a device that reads heat energy inside a building and allows us a more accurate image of what is going on inside the environment.”

Most fire departments now have at least one thermal imaging camera in their arsenal, but Anderson if a fire department needs one to contact Insight through www.insighttrainingllc.com.

“We have a lot of avenues to access for grant money we can help them secure,” he said.

In addition to classroom time, the participants learned during an orientation burn at the former Camden Avenue Apartments.

BFD Capt. Joey Baxa also teaches through Insight and said this week’s course builds on a thermal imaging class instructor Andy Starnes led in Buckhannon a few years ago. Starnes also taught over the two-day methodology course.

Baxa added some of the firefighters took time off to work using vacation days to participate in the training and be better prepared to serve the public.

“As we say in the fire service, this is for them,” Baxa said. “This class is all about the citizens and giving people a better chance of survival if they are trapped in a fire.”

In addition to classroom time at the BF, the participates had an orientation burn at the former Camden Avenue Apartments which will soon be demolished by West Virginia Wesleyan College leaving a green space.

There, the participants experienced zero visibility conditions where they had to use the camera and communicate with each other. They also practiced primary searches.

“A primary search in the fire service is a very fast search,” Baxa said. “We are hands-on trying to find victims.”

It was the role of one firefighter in the scenario to direct the firefighters to look for cribs or other areas where kids might be hiding in the room.

“He is guiding them to the right place,” Baxa said.

“Today, firefighters in the class will resume the physical training in more complicated scenarios at the former residence hall.

Baxa said the course, which was capped at 30 participants, brought together firefighters from Charleston, Dunbar, Wheeling and other areas who stayed in Buckhannon and ate in Buckhannon restaurants.

“It’s great to get everybody together but to have them here in our community to share something that we have been learning…and they are sharing scenarios they have been through and knowledge they have learned, this is wonderful,” he said. “The stuff we are learning in the commons area is just as valuable as what is going on in the class.”

Anderson, a captain with the Charlotte Fire Department in North Carolina, said the opportunities provided through the partnership with West Virginia Wesleyan College and the City of Buckhannon was “absolutely invaluable.”

“Usually, the buildings we train in are buildings firefighters have trained in a million times before so they get used to the layout. They know the building really well. To have the opportunity to come to a building that is being demolished – especially a building this size with so many different layouts, the possibilities are endless to what we can do with it.”

Baxa said the chance to use the Camden Avenue Apartments was a phenomenal opportunity.

“We don’t have a burn facility or a training center,” he said. “We have to drive somewhere to replicate these conditions. Wesleyan has been very generous with us as you can see and they deserve all the thanks in the world. They and council. Mayor David McCauley was very much behind this.”

BFD Chief J.B. Kimble also thanked McCauley and the college. In recent months, the BFD has trained in homes that were demolished behind Camden Avenue Apartments. That relationship will continue.

“As they demo houses, we will have the opportunity to do a few other things,” he said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity.”