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Firefighters train on trench rescue, heavy lifting

Firefighters from Hickory, Concord and Salisbury wrapped up a two-week fire and rescue training recently at the N.C. Air National Guard’s N.C. Emergency Training Center.

The firefighters received Urban Search and Rescue training in trench rescue and heavy lifting and structural collapse rescue.

“This is my first time on a training site and it’s been a very labor-intensive class,” Concord Fire Department Capt. Jason Starr said.

The training center was created as a partnership between the N.C. Air National Guard and the Office of State Fire Marshal in December 2017. The ANG also has a partnership with Stanly Community College to offer the fire and rescue certification at the training center to civilians as well as firefighters and rescue workers. These certifications are under the OSFM.

Guard members from across the country have come to the training center, according to Rusty Starnes, captain of the 145th Air National Guard fire department.

During the first week, the firefighters had to brace the walls of a trench to prevent collapse and cave-ins (also called shoring) in order to locate and extricate victims. For the second week, they participated in a heavy lifting course, lifting and moving objects up to around 7,000 pounds. They also had to breach, break, cut and burn to gain access through concrete, steel and other structural components during mock rescue operations.

“We have tested our capabilities and we’ve tested our skills and our knowledge,” Hickory Fire Department Capt. Wendell Owens of the Hickory Fire Department said. “So we have a very broader base of competence when it comes to structural collapse and the knowledge that we’ve got to have to know what to go in and what not to go in.”

The training center is the only site in the country for ANG military and civilian firefighters and rescue workers to receive certification. The firefighters live and eat for free on the training base while they are taking their courses.

“Nowhere else will you be able to go on this side of our country and get this kind of quality, real hands-on experience training in scenarios like this,” Owens said.

“Our primary mission, aside from the subject matter being taught, is safety,” lead civilian instructor Scott McCaskill said.

With all of the work in trench rescue, heavy lifting and structural collapse trainings, “we keep the focus coming back to safety at all times,” he said.

The training also allowed the firefighters to come together as a team to problem solve and work through different obstacles.

“These guys have functioned very well,” McCaskill said. “They very quickly became a solid, cohesive unit.”

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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