Damion Ross with the Thomas County Fire Department polishes his safe driving skills on a police car simulator at the Albany Fire Department Fire Training Center. Other Tuesday classes included downed firefighter rescue, building ventilation with chainsaws and proper ladder placement techniques. (Staff photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — Activities began Tuesday for the Georgia State Firefighters Association and Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs convention, in Albany for the first time since 1961. At the Albany Fire Department’s training center on Honeysuckle Lane, firefighters from all over the state participated in classes designed to hone their basic lifesaving skills.
A central part of the “Learning to Drive Safely” class was the high-tech driving simulators, designed to test basic driving skills, while planted firmly in the air-conditioned safety of the training center.
“You can never have too much training,” said Damian Ross, a driver for the Thomas County Fire Department. “I have my (continuing education) hours for the year already, but coming down here is just a different kind of experience. You get together with different departments to share what you’ve been through and learn from one another.”
Ross said his fire department lacks a simulator, so for practice they take their big red truck to the local airport and position orange cones to drive through. Ross said he had a 24-hour shift coming up on Wednesday and wouldn’t be able to attend the entire conference.
Away from the classroom center, team members braved the heat and humidity in much of their regulation gear as they learned “Advanced Truck Operations,” from members of the Johns Creek Fire Department and others in the metro Atlanta area.
“The Johns Creek Boys came together to help provide the best professional training we can,” said Battalion Chief Douglas Hatcher of the Atlanta Fire Department. “All of us have tricks of the trade and all of us have put in between 15 and 20 years. We learn from these guys, too. It’s a mutual benefit.”
Hatcher said his group trains at other conferences and also host the Metro Atlanta Firefighters Conference.
According to Assistance Fire Chief Rubin Jordon, Advanced Truck Company Operations is designed to heighten basic firefighting skills including aerial platform, setting up ladders, building ventilation by the use of chain saws and rescue of downed firefighters. On Saturday firefighters will spend a good part of the day ripping old cars apart with the new electric “edraulic” rescue tool, replacing the well-known hydraulic “Jaws of Life.”
“It’s a great time for Albany,” Jordon said. “It’s a big week for Albany firefighters and for the community. It gives people from all over a chance to see what the fire service in general does.”
Training and other functions of the associations are scheduled to continue through Saturday at the Albany Civic Center, the Fire Training Center and in classrooms at Albany Technical College.