Firefighters training for disasters

September is National Disaster Preparedness month and a group of firefighters across Michiana are at work to prepare for when anything happens.

Firefighters are in the final days of an eight day, 80 hour course that has taught them how to act and react when natural or man-made disasters occur.

These skills are a lot more advanced than what is taught during standard fire training according to Clay Fire Department Captain Matthew Dhoore.    

“The special rescue world is a lot different than just normal firefighting skills that we’re taught. Everything here is extra and beyond what you get in a normal fire recruit academy,” said Dhoore.

The Structural Collapse Technician Course is voluntary.

“The students are really focusing on for when buildings fall down, how to safely extricate trapped victims that are inside buildings when they come down,” Dhoore.

In all there are various fire departments represented including: Clay, Mishawaka, South Bend, Niles, Warsaw, Goshen, Elkhart, Notre Dame, and Niles Fire Departments.

"To be able to pull a number of people throughout all the departments, it makes it a lot easier when we go to calls we can pull each other together. It doesn’t matter what patch you wear, it’s mainly about being part of the team and really doing a lot of good,” said Keith Kwieran, Clay Fire Assistant Chief. 

Throughout the course of the class, students are learning to do things like rope rescues, saw through concrete, and burn through steel.

“This is probably one of the most difficult classes they can get throughout their career, very physically demanding. Guys are walking away very tired and dirty at the end of everyday," Dhoore added. 

It is the preparation that can prove to be life-saving when disaster happens.

“I think a lot of light was shined on it after 9/11 and we’re a long ways past that, but for us we’ve always been in that business, so for us to be prepared, it’s what we do,” said Kwieran.

The course will end on Thursday. The final training exercise is set up in Elkhart where students will collapse different buildings and then have to put into action what they learned over the past eight days.

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