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Local fire training priceless
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A firefighter gathers himself before starting the next step in a maze that tests flexibility and ability to manevuer in tight spots. - photo by JIM MISUNAS Great Bend Tribune

Firefighters from central Kansas enjoy the camaraderie just as much as the training provided by the Great Bend fire department.
The firefighters passed tests of flexibility, rescue and fire prevention at fire station No. 2 west of town in Great Bend. The department provides fire protection and rescue for Great Bend and four surrounding townships. More than 45 firefighters from Ellsworth, Russell, Hays and Great Bend attended Saturday’s training.
“Firefighters have a passion for what they do,” said Michael Reifschneider, Great Bend firefighter and paramedic. “This type of work gets in their blood. They come to work every day loving what they do. It’s all about teamwork to achieve a common goal whether it’s to calm some chaos or provide some rescue help. When they meet someone for the first time, they all work together really well.”
The most challenging test required firefighters to secure a victim from an elevated structure. Rescue was coordinated by units from the Hays and Great Bend departments equipped with ladders. The victim is rescued either by ladder or via a bucket truck that is lowered to the ground.
“We simulate a rescue on top of a building. The victim has a medical condition where they have to be removed from the top of a building,” said Reifschneider.
They had to pass through a maze that tests the firefighter’s capability of bending and stretching heavy equipment past possible obstacles that might face. Some firefighters are flexible enough they can pass easily through the maze. Others have to take their time.
Firefighters have to familiar with the equipment and everything they wear,” he said. “You learn what works best for you. This type of training is valuable for all of the fire departments.”
Of course, regular firefighting technique was practiced in the complex that provides a perfect venue to practice firefighting techniques. Crews were given a variety of fires to fight.
The firefighters face hazardous duty when practicing their profession.
Temperatures will exceed 1,000 degrees at the edge of the fire. There’s bulky protective gear to wear, noise, heat, water, smoke and limited visibility.
Firefighters learn how a fire reacts and how best to extinguish the flames.
The fans feature improved technology. They used to suck smoke out of a building. Now, they are commonly used to blow smoke out of the building for improved visibility. A firefighter will quickly inspect the building to discover the best way to attack the fire and where it’s best to ventilate the fire.
Firefighters practice opening the best window for ventilation and understand how to use their firefighting equipment.
A fan also quickly lowers the temperature inside a burning building. It was common in the past that firefighters would face thick black smoke when entering a building. Now, there’s a better likelihood that visibility will be passable.
A thermal imaging camera is a valuable device that uses infrared radiation that detects heat and temperature.
Great Bend Fire Chief Mike Napolitano supervised the operation with an even-handed approach. He made a check list to insure that equipment and verified that everything was in order for the fire training.
The Great Bend fire department also provides EMS response and transport to the same area plus an additional 2 1/2 townships west of Great Bend. The total population served is 20,000 people, and the average response time is 3.5 minutes in the City and eight minutes in the county.