More than 30 volunteers of the West Grove Fire Company conducted live fire training at the Chester County Public Safety Training Campus in South Coatesville last evening. The training is conducted using live fire to provide a realistic but safe and controlled setting for experienced and novice firefighters to gain hands-on skills and practice.
The multi-hour training exercise is part of an ongoing commitment to frequent and realistic training evolutions designed to keep firefighters up on the latest techniques in hose line advancement, fire fighting, water supply, fire ground operations, communications, safety, ladder and engine company operations, and fire ground command. The WGFC offers hundreds of hours of training for its members each year, with drill nights nearly every Monday evening, plus planned training exercises at fire schools, and opportunities for its members and staff to attend local, regional and national training courses.
The Chester County Public Safety Training Campus provides specialized training facilities to help police, EMS and fire units of the County to have a safe and dedicated place for training. The fire training grounds include specialized buildings designed for live fire exercises, that simulate houses, row homes, commercial businesses, high rise buildings, and industrial settings. The buildings are capable of live fire using combustible materials (like wood) as well as pre-piped natural gas. The site is equipment with a variety of equipment to simulate real world conditions, and allow for a nearly-unlimited array of real-world conditions.
For the WGFC drill, fires were set in a residential-like setting, and the company was "dispatched" to reported fires. Crews had to arrive on scene as they would in an actual fire situation. Crews would evaluate and size up conditions, crews stretched hoselines into the fire building, performing search operations on multiple floors, ladder companies provided rescue and laddering of the structure -- all while being supervised by safety officers and training officers for evaluations. Three different fire scenarios were run over the two hour session, with hose lines charged, hydrants utilized and engine and ladder trucks employed.
Students were continually evaluated for hydration and blood pressure, and air packs were used like they would be in real world emergency situations. After each scenario, the teams would self evaluate their actions and progress, and then crews would rotate into different assignments. Experienced crews were mixed with newer firefighters, and fire line officers were given assignments to practice leadership roles.
Chester County has made a significant investment in the Public Safety Training Campus, making such training available to the County's dozens of fire companies. The members of the West Grove Fire Company are grateful for access to this campus, and take advantage of the training opportunities there as often as possible. Behind the scenes, volunteers provide dinner and drinks for the training night, and our friends at the Longwood Fire Company provided a standby engine in West Grove while the WGFC crews were in training.