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OPVFD unveils new training prop
By Dolores E. Pike

Since the people in Ocean Pines are reluctant to have a hole chopped into a perfectly good roof, the opportunities of Ocean Pines Volunteer Fire Department (OPVFD) firefighters to practice doing so are obviously limited.  In fact, this also applies to practicing many of the skills needed to handle a variety of dangerous situations facing firefighters answering a call. And it is not often that a building slated to be demolished is at their disposal.

The need for a “practice tool” is what led to a conversation between Billy Bounds, a Level 2 fire instructor, and Skip Carey, who teaches a preliminary pre-basic fire class.  Both men, who are members of the OPVFD, talked about having a permanent prop readily available where firefighters could train doing roof and ladder work.

“This training is essential particularly with as tight as they are building houses now and the materials they are building them out of.  You have to vent the house to get the heat and smoke out to give the people inside the house a chance to survive and give the firefighters a chance to find where they are and get to them.  You need to see where the fire is, effect a rescue and extinguish the fire,” said Carey.

It was determined that two roofs were needed; one with a steep pitch and one with a shallower pitch.  This way the firefighters could experience working off the roof itself, off the ladder on the roof as well as to simulate working out of the bucket on the aerial apparatus. Ground ladders can be thrown up against the training prop to get people used to climbing and working.  This would eliminate the past practice of throwing the ladder against the side of the firehouse, which then had to be thoroughly scrubbed after the drill to remove the ladder markings.

Bounds and Carey took their idea to Harvey Booth who, like Carey, is a member of the emergency medical services (EMS) crew of OPVFD.  Before being hired to work on the ambulance crew, Booth was in the construction trade and helped to build a fair number of homes in Ocean Pines.  The three men decided upon a prop that would not be too big yet would allow enough room for people to stand on the roof.  Sixteen-foot square was just the right size.

With permission from the OPVFD board of directors Carey took the idea into the community to garner contributions. 

“I went to Marvin Steen who does a tremendous amount of community service and he donated some of the lumber.  Marty Clarke donated the plywood.  Adkins Company donated the studs and joists.  We probably got about 95% of the material donated,” said Carey.

As Bounds, Booth and Carey began building they realized there would be a lot of dead space inside the training prop so they incorporated additional features. Inside they placed 20-foot and six-foot pieces of culvert pipe.  The former is to simulate work in a confined space while the latter serves as practice for going down and working in a manhole.  They hope to build a breathing apparatus maze for people to crawl through and encounter obstacles such as stairs, rafters and doors.  The firefighters will be in a totally dark environment and have to rely on their other senses.

The OPVFD members’ first practice with the new training prop will be on the second Tuesday in July, one of their scheduled two drill nights each month.   In August Carey will start a preliminary pre-basic fire class for two new members, Leo O’Hara and Greg Wilson.  This preparation will help them get ready to go to the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute’s Firefighter 1 class to meet the 110 hour training requirement.

The OP Women’s Club recently gave the OPVFD $1,000 and specified that the money be used for something not in the normal budget.  The board of directors allocated it for the training prop where, for instance, the plywood covering the roof opening will have to be replaced each time a hole is cut in the roof. 
“The money will be a big help in getting going as far as the actual training,” said Carey.

A member of a south end Worcester County fire company has seen the training prop and expressed interest in a copy of the plans.  Unfortunately the “plans” were drawn on the trunk and side of a white Chevrolet Cavalier, a donated junk car, which is slated to be used in putting out car fires in a ditch yet to be constructed.  But that is another story.

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Uploaded: 7/6/2005