Beacon Hose makes good use of secondary location
BEACON FALLS — Bailing out of a second story window, surviving and escaping after a floor collapses, and maneuvering through walls are all difficult tasks. But they can become a matter of life and death when a building is on fire.
“We don’t do it every day. If you don’t do it every day, you have got to practice it,” Beacon Hose Company No. 1 Assistant Fire Chief Brian DeGeorge said.
That is where Beacon Hose Company No. 1 Station 2 comes into play.
Station 2 located at 52 Railroad Avenue used to be owned by the candy maker Peter Paul, which operated a factory in Naugatuck and was bought by Hershey. The company used to process liquid sugar for its products at the Beacon Falls location, according to DeGeorge.
The factory was operational until 2007, when Hershey moved operations out of state. The town leased the property from Hershey in 2009 and shortly afterward Beacon Hose began to use the building, DeGeorge said.
The building has mostly been used for storage until recently when Beacon Hose members took it upon themselves to turn the building into a training facility. Members of the department have been working over the past few months to build training simulations of what firefighters could face in real life and setting them up at Station 2.
A second-story window prop allows firefighters to learn how to exit a building through a window. The mayday prop simulates a floor collapsing, and a through-the-wall prop teaches firefighters multiple techniques to breach and maneuver through walls inside of homes.
“To have the props and do it all the time is the only way you are going to be able to do it. God forbid something like this happens. It’s fun here, but it’s not going to be fun when it happens in real life,” DeGeorge said.
The equipment was built by members of the department.
“One day myself, Michael McGee, and Cal Brennan decided to get together and just start building some training props over with our training budget,” Firefighter Tim Hanks said. “A lot of other departments do it and they have all sorts of other training props. They are generalized training props, but we put our own little touch on all of them.”
McGee said it started simple because the department had the room.
“It started out as the second-story bailout prop and it went from there. Next thing you know we have three props,” he said.
Beacon Hose plans to add to its training props, including a low-profile prop to help firefighters train to move through tight spaces, as the need for them arises.
McGee said the training props have been extremely useful.
“It’s a way for us to train to become proficient at things that happen in very adverse conditions. It’s not ideal to bail out of a second story window, but it’s something you want to be very proficient in should the need ever arise,” McGee said.
In addition to training, Station 2 is still used for storing equipment. While the storage space is helpful, the ability to train is what makes Station 2 an integral facility for the department.
“Realistically we are supposed to train monthly and we are supposed to be proficient at every duty that we do. Depending on their schedule we do a monthly training. Lately it has been pretty much more than monthly,” DeGeorge said.
Prior to building the props for Station 2, the only way firefighters could get training was to head to one of the regional fire schools, DeGeorge said. The closest ones are currently in Wolcott and New Haven.
“Doing these trainings at night, you start at 6 or 7 p.m. If we have to go to Wolcott, the travel time coming back and forth leaves us minimal time,” DeGeorge said.
Firefighters have much more opportunity to train with access to equipment close by, staying at the station until 10 p.m. some evenings, he said.
However, just because the department has the equipment doesn’t mean they don’t attend training sessions at the fire schools, DeGeorge said.
“It’s good both ways, having your internal guys working together and then having external instructors. It’s beneficial both ways. Sometimes you want to learn outside, but sometimes, for some of the kids, it’s nice to learn from somebody they work with all the time. They feel a little more comfortable,” DeGeorge said.
The Valley Fire Chiefs Training School is slated to be built in the Pinesbridge Commerce Park in Beacon Falls. Though when exactly remains a question.
Beacon Hose plans to use the new fire school when it’s built, but has no plans to stop training at Station 2.
“We will still have our props here because I would think that would be relatively busy. So it still gives us our opportunities internally to do our own stuff. Most of our scheduled training would be [at the fire school], but our impromptu stuff would be here. That’s what the plan is anyway,” DeGeorge said.
In the meantime, firefighters are still going to keep practicing and making sure they are prepared.
“You’ve got to be ready for anything,” Hanks said.