To the rescue: Firefighters proactively protect through continuous training

Telegraph photo by MATHEW PLAMONDON Nashua Fire Rescue officials respond to a call at 30 Temple St., during which they used the opportunity to practice extending the ladder from the base of the building to the roof.

NASHUA – Those who have witnessed Nashua Fire Rescue crews responding to calls for fire alarms may have viewed firefighters extending ladders to top of some of the tallest structures in the city.

Even during the instances in which they are responding to a call that is not an active fire, these emergency responders are trained to treat every call with significant caution. While remaining proactive, firefighters can treat such situations as training moments.

Fire officials, knowing they don’t always have the ability foresee every possible circumstance that may occur prior to an active fire, believe every opportunity they get to work through a situation is valuable.

“We can’t just drive down the street and just set up a ladder everywhere we go,” Assistant Fire Chief George A. Walker said, “but if the alarms are going off and there is a reason why we’re there, then it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for us to throw the aerial.”

During a Jan. 31 alarm response at 30 Temple St., fire crews took full advantage of a non-active fire call. They set up their outriggers on Ladder 1 truck and extended it from the base of the building, all the way to the top, spanning seven floors.

Walker said this practice helps firefighters prepare for similar situations that may arise involving active fires in the future. During these instances, both engine and ladder crews work through their routines: locating the source of the alarm; finding the standpipe system of multilevel buildings and figuring out the best position for the ladder truck.

“While we’re there, we’re also trying to see the best position for the aerial device on laddering that particular building,” Walker said. “So we combine being there for the call with a training aspect because it allows us.”

The most prominent reason for fire crews to take great lengths when responding to even the most minor call is the mindset that each call presents the with it the possibility there is an active fire.

“We like being proactive, instead of reactive,” Walker said about the philosophy of responding to calls from dispatch. “You don’t want to wait until, all of a sudden, fire blows through a window. You want to actually be read for that.”

Preparing for a working fire, regardless of time and location, takes consistent training. Nashua firefighters spend a lot of time and effort keeping themselves ready for such situations.

With the department’s training grounds located off West Hollis Street at the area of the Four Hills Landfill serving firefighters from Nashua and surrounding towns in training for live fires, below grade rescues, aerial rescues, confined spaces and standpipe systems, these Greater Nashua emergency responders have a modern facility in which to prepare.

Coupling the training grounds with their respective duties, firefighters can work efficiently when called to action. Walker said after all the training, every member of the engine and ladder companies knows what they’re job is and how to perform it efficiently.

Walker said every company has a function and tasks to perform when responding to any call.

“The engine company goes in to determine what the cause of the alarm is. So they’ll go to the panel of the fire alarm box that is tripped, and it’ll tell us what floor the problem is.” Walker said. “They’re going to go to the area of the building and try to determine what the cause is.”

“The ladder company obviously is looking at all of the building to see if anybody is in need of rescue,” he added. “They do a 360-degree of the building, and they’ll probably set the aerial up.”

With firefighters being well-versed in many areas, including not only fire rescue, but also medical response, water and dive rescue, vehicle rescue and hazardous material care and disposal, every crew member is expected to perform his or her duties at a high level.

With no situation being exactly the same as, Walker said firefighter training is an ongoing process for the members of Nashua Fire Rescue.

“Training is 24/7 around here,” Walker said. “No two calls are alike.”