The Ellinwood Fire Department hosted an area-wide firefighters conference on Rapid Intervention Techniques to rescue trapped firefighters on Monday night at St. Joseph Parish Hall in Ellinwood.
"It consists of having firefighters available and prepared to rescue when they get trapped," said Ellinwood Fire Chief Chris Komarek. "It’s about saving our own."
Approximately 100 firefighters from 24 communities attended the lecture from as far away as Pratt, Stafford and Garfield. "We had an excellent turn-out. I thought it went exceptionally well," said Komarek.
The Johnson County Consolidated Fire District #2 developed a program for RIT after two of their firefighters died in a fire in the last 15 years. They vowed never to let it happen again and so developed the new procedures. The class was taught by Captain Brian Stini.
In addition, they started teaching other fire departments. This class was free-of-charge.
The reason Ellinwood hosted the event was to become more proactive, said the fire chief, although they have already had some training already. "I wanted them to hear this guy’s story," said Komarek.
Komarek explained the procedures. If firefighters go inside of a structure, there should always be two firefighters watching and prepared to rescue them if they become trapped. "Normally, we never considered having dedicated firefighters for rescue," he said.
It will require more mutual aid between fire departments. "Any type of structure fire has the potential to go wrong," he said. "Things happen that you don’t expect."
Johnson County also teaches a 40 hour class that offers hands-on training on such things as breeching walls.
Komarek plans to offer a class as well. "We are developing training procedures to do locally," Komarek said.
Three firefighters from Great Bend attended the conference in Ellinwood including Captain Luke McCormick. Many Great Bend firefighters have already attended the RIT training including the 40 hour training. GBFD has also implemented training as well.
"We have been working with RIT drills," said McCormick. "All area departments are on the same page."
He thought the training is wonderful because firefighters are prepared to rescue civilians and now they are training to rescue firefighters.
McCormick explained the reason it is difficult to rescue firefighters. "With gear they’re heavier and can weigh up to 300 pounds," he said. "They also have straps, so they don’t slide and can get entangled."
A Mayday policy has been established where dispatch sends all of the county fire departments and an ambulance to assist if a firefighter is trapped.
"With a firefighter it becomes labor intensive," McCormick said. It requires three to five teams of two to rescue a firefighter. They use more air and can’t see because of the smoke, he explained.
The RIT rescue package contains extra air supply for the downed firefighter and specialized tools such as ropes and webbing.
"I wish to extend my thanks to Johnson County FD #2 and Bank of the West for making this training available to us," Komarek said.