Firefighters head to Rochester for training event

April 9, 2019

Volunteer firefighters from across the state converged on Rochester this past weekend as part of the Minnesota State Fire/EMS/Rescue School.

Approximately 300 firefighters from 119 different departments attended the trainings put on by Riverland Community College in cooperation with Rochester Community and Technical College as well as the Experience Rochester Now.

The two-day event gave first responders a chance to hone their skills in both a classroom setting and in hands-on training.

Outside of RCTC, firefighters worked on their pump operation skills — getting water to a fire.

“Without the pumpers, you’re not going to be able to flow any water on the fire scene at all, and we need to do it quickly, efficiently and safely,” Grand Meadow Firefighter Dan Geier said. “Lives are on the line, property is on the line, and you want to be safe for everybody involved.”

Geier has been with the Grand Meadow Fire Department for more than four years and said he tries to go to outside trainings like these whenever they are offered. His department, like many, holds its own trainings monthly.

For Lake City firefighter and training officer John Brandt, attending the basic pumper operations course comes with the added responsibility of sharing what he’s learned with the rest of the department.

In Lake City, when the fire department is called, seven firefighters need to respond and each needs to be prepared to take on any role.

“You train to better yourself and get more familiar with the equipment … training is a good thing so everybody has knowledge and you are able to fight the fire safely,” Brandt said.

At the Southeast Regional Public Safety Training Center, a group of seven firefighters from four different departments practiced search and rescue techniques using a nearly life-sized dummy and the center’s training tower.

With a ladder leaning against the building at a second-story window, the group was preparing to go over techniques to evacuate people through a window. Instructor Bob Atzenhoefer, of the Fairmont Fire Department, spoke through the window opening to the group, giving tips on how to best complete the rescue while staying safe. In groups of three, one firefighter handed the dummy out to another waiting on the ladder. A third firefighter was on the ground using a strap to help stabilize the ladder.

Atezenhoefer cautioned the group to not get too high up on the ladder otherwise they could have their center of balance thrown off and away from the ladder once they are handed the dummy. If they were too low, he cautioned, the firefighter inside the structure would have to lean too far out of the window.

Kasson Firefighter Matt Lawerence has been with the department for two years. He joined for a sense of something greater and said it’s been one of the most rewarding things he’s ever done.

Although fire calls are few and far between for Lawrence, he said the trainings help create muscle memory for when the techniques are needed.

The search and rescue training also gave the group a chance to use a variety of their skills.

“The more you train, the more automatic it becomes when the time is needed,” Kasson Firefighter Curtis Alexander said, noting that not only is property and the lives of those in a house or car on the line, but also the lives of every firefighter and responder that goes out to a scene.