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Local News

February 26, 2013

Firefighters hone skills on escape system


In August 2012, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law legislation pertaining to the escape systems firefighters at risk of entrapment at elevations must carry, according to the state Department of Labor website.

A 2008 law requiring firefighter escape systems was updated last year to allow departments to have more choices in systems, Kevin Ritton, coordinator of the Otsego County Office of Emergency Services, said Monday. No departments have had to use the system, he said, but the training is good to have should firefighters find themselves individually or with other crews in such limited escape scenarios.

Mattice said training in the Oneonta Fire Department started about two weeks ago and will wrap up in about two more weeks, providing with 12 to 15 hours, including a three-hour class, of instruction and practice. Firefighters will have review sessions twice annually, he said.

State lawmakers justified the laws because of an incident that has become known as “Black Sunday” in the firefighting community. On Jan. 23, 2005, six New York City firefighters were caught on the fourth floor of a burning building in the Bronx without proper escape components, the law said. The firefighters were forced to jump from the building, resulting in serious injury to four and the death of two.

The department has 28 full-time and three part-time firefighters, Mattice said, plus nine on-call firefighters who respond to scenes but don’t enter burning buildings.

All 40 firefighters will be trained in the escape system, according to Mattice, and different scenarios, such as masks with visibility obscured, are used to simulate various firefighting situations.

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