2006-07-13 / News

Fire department extends protection with special service teams

Rescue services stand ready on land and water
By Sam Bari

Although many are not aware of the extent of the services offered by our volunteer fire department, rest assured, they do much more than squirt water on fires and rescue cats from trees.

"Since the beginning, I guess we've offered special services that people don't know much about," said Fire Chief Jim Bryer.

"The special service teams became more apparent in the last year because so much depends on increasing local needs that must be fulfilled," he said. "

For instance, the Coast Guard is busy with Homeland Security and isn't as involved in rescue operations at sea as they once were. Consequently, our rescue boat has been vital to local residents and visitors to the bay. We cover Jamestown waters from Prudence Island in the north to about halfway to Block Island in the south and everything in between," he said.

"Our rescue boat is a high powered, fully equipped craft that takes specialized training to operate. And that's just one of the duties of special service teams," Bryer added. They are trained and equipped to handle everything from a fire at sea to rescuing people from sinking vessels.

"We dedicate one truck that carries the equipment to do just about anything in an emergency. It even has pumps that can pump water out of a cellar at rates up to 250 gallons per minute," the fire chief said.

"We don't want people calling us to pump out their basement because they have a plugged drain," he added.

"But if lives are in danger, or the situation warrants our services, we have the equipment and the personnel to do the job. We even have oil booms that can float on water and absorb just oil and not water in case of a spill," he said.

"All of our divers are certified. Some have higher search and rescue certifications than others do, but all are experienced, qualified divers, Bryer noted.

"We have equipment to refill air tanks for dive rescue teams and an air supply trailer for f i r e f i g h t e r s that carries MSA air packs. The divers are in need of air in s e a r c h and rescue situations at sea, and the MSA air packs are invaluable to firefighters on land, particularly when air is contaminated with smoke and other pollutants," he said.

"All of our department members are given the opportunity to receive special training, and they take advantage of the instruction as it is offered. Some classes are restricted to a limited number of students, so everybody doesn't receive the same training at the same time," the fire chief said.

"However, whenever the instruction is available, our firefighters are there to keep abreast of the latest techniques in all phases of firefighting, rescue, and emergency medical procedures," he added. " The training is funded through the fire department budget. When the cost of training exceeds the allotted funds, the expense is covered by donations. We are a volunteer department, so the members donate their time to train and take classes. They also volunteer to perform hours of work that isn't highly specialized, but that needs to be done," Bryer said.

"Whenever our bucket truck with personnel trimming trees is seen, they are volunteer department members making sure that fire alarm cables are not pulled loose by overhanging branches. These tasks fall into the category of special services, and we plan on adding more as time and funding permits," he said.

Keith Godena, captain of Engine 2, and veteran of the department for 22 years, praised the program. "Later this month, we're having a rappelling class," Godena said.

Certified rappellers will instruct our department members in the use of ropes and rappelling down cliffs and the sides of buildings, and I guarantee that the class will be full," he said.

"Over the years, firefighting has evolved to much more than putting out fires. Department members are continually training, studying, and learning to give the community the best services possible," Bryer said.

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