In the pursuit of saving lives, firefighters have to deal with a lot of challenging situations: burning buildings, hazardous materials, even collapsing buildings.

To train for the latter, Somers firefighters took part in the Gateway Technical College Structural Collapse Operations class, a 40-hour course, held at a vacant structure.

On June 9, members of the Somers Fire Department Jodin Froeber, a full-time firefighter, Dustin Thorpe, a paid-on-call firefighter, Jamie Thorpe, a paid-on-call part-time firefighter, Jose Ruiz, a paid-on-call firefighter and Ty Harper, a paid-on-call recruit, joined firefighters from Pleasant Prairie, Bristol, Paris and Linn to get first-hand experience in working in such an environment.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Nelson.

The course is extensive and gives first responders hands-on experience to operate safely and efficiently in a building that is collapsing, be it a wooden, masonry or a prefabricated structure. In addition to removing victims from a simulated collapse environment, participants practiced cutting, breaching, lifting, stabilizing, searching, shoring and packaging. The course is physically demanding, but participants gain competence and confidence.
Using just pry bars and rollers, firefighters had to move and turn a 2,400-pound concrete block, 20 feet. Then they had to do it again, this time raising it high enough to fit one team member under it, using wooden supports. Wood was also used to support and stabilize flooring and walls, inside and out.

Participants also practiced tunneling techniques through the structure and debris, searching for trapped victims. They then had to exit the structure a different way by tunneling through, stabilizing their escape route at every point.

The Somers Fire & Rescue Dept. has been part of the Kenosha County Specialized Response Team (KCSRT) since the team’s inception in 2006. Currently, five members of the department are on the county team with various levels of training. All members continue with additional training.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Nelson.

Kenosha County Specialized Response Team leader Douglas McElmury and Somers Fire Department Lt. Jodin Froeber organized the training with Gateway Technical College. The instructors were Steven McCaughey, Neil Flannery, David Sass and Jeffrey Gunhus.