Area firefighters band together for training
By Brian Stanley firstname.lastname@example.org September 19, 2012 10:40PM
Updated: October 21, 2012 2:27PM
The Will County chapter of the international Fraternal Order of Leatherheads Society (F.O.O.L.S.) was organized earlier this year. There are about 20 members who are on the rosters of East Joliet, Joliet, Lockport Township, Manhattan, New Lenox, Plainfield, Troy, Wilmington and Itasca.
“(The Itasca firefighter) lives in our area. It’s the same brotherhood. Why not,” Joliet firefighter Matt Christensen explained. Christensen is the nonprofit organization’s trustee in charge of training, one of F.O.O.L.S.’s main priorities.
The members of various departments work together to reduce the cost of classes for firefighters who want to earn certifications.
After earlier lectures on leadership and safety, F.O.O.L.S. held its first practical training this week on vehicle extrication. Firefighters from Frankfort, Paris and Sugar Grove also signed up to practice cutting junk cars at Joliet’s Berlinsky Scrap and Lockport’s O’Hare Towing.
Tuesday’s lessons focused on using hand tools such as hacksaws, Sawzalls and the multipronged Halligan bars.
“Not every (fire vehicle) has hydraulic tools, so if you’re don’t have them, you can get started if you’re first on the scene,” Lockport Township Lt. Mike Lopina said. “We see plenty of traffic accidents, but extrications are actually few and far between. So (training) gives you a chance to practice what you already know or try new techniques.”
Firefighters were able to take the top and doors completely off a Chrysler LeBaron in about 20 minutes using only hand tools Tuesday. Wednesday’s lessons feature a variety of spreaders and shears non-Leatherheads would refer to as the “jaws of life.”
Firefighters also practiced inflating lift bags to raise a vehicle. While speed is important, finesse is needed too. A glass of water was placed on a metal grate and had to be set up and braced without spilling.
“The guy pressing the controls, the watcher calling the shots and the guys who are cribbing (using blocks to stabilize) all have to be on the same page. It’s very much a team effort,” Lopina said.