Firefighters learn new skills with help from a pro

Chicago fireman leads survival training

By Ben Moger-Williams
Observer staff

Firefighters from Williston and nearby departments got a taste last weekend of survival and rescue training, Chicago-style.

Lt. Rick Kolomay of the Shaumberg, Ill., Heavy Rescue Squad Co. 1, traveled to Williston to lead a two-day training exercise in firefighter rescue and survival. Shaumberg is in the Chicago metropolitan area.

“Firefighters have trained for years on how to put out fires,” said Williston fire Capt. Jim Hendry. “It’s only in the last few years that they’ve trained for what to do when something goes wrong.”

Kolomay’s training focused on rescuing firefighters who were incapacitated in some way; self-survival; and how to search for victims in a large area, such as a big-box store. The training took place in a large warehouse at 327 Holly Court, so as to simulate the conditions firefighters might encounter in a large retail store.

“When you have a community like this which has seen a sudden increase in large commercial buildings you really need an opportunity to train in that type of building,” Hendry said.

Kolomay, 48, is the co-author of Firefighter Rescue and Survival, and has led training classes all over the country. He said he has been to Vermont about 10 times, but was especially impressed that Williston was taking such a proactive approach to its training.

“There are not a lot of fire departments like Williston that are requesting this type of training,” Kolomay said. “It keeps them a step ahead of other fire services.”

Williston fire Lt. Bill Gunn said he was glad to have the opportunity to train with Kolomay.

“We haven’t had this kind of training in the six years I’ve been in the department,” Gunn said. “We learned skills for saving ourselves; saving other firefighters; getting out of buildings; skills we hadn’t been able to train before.”

About 24 people attended the training, which was paid for in part by leftover money from a federal grant, Hendry said. The grant also paid for new equipment, such as thermal imagers, rescue air packs and special search ropes. This new equipment was also used during the training, Hendry said,

In addition to the Williston fire department, firefighters from South Burlington, Essex, and Underhill/Jericho fire departments, as well as from the Front of Yonge volunteer fire department in Mallorytown, Ontario, and the Ottawa City Fire Department participated.