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Fire volunteers complete rigorous course

Fifteen area volunteer fire departments added 35 new firefighters to their ranks when the volunteers completed a rigorous six-month course and received their certificates of completion at a ceremony June 19 at the Lower Macungie Township Community Center.

This was the third annual Bucks County Fire Academy course held every Sunday for the past six months at the Allentown Fire Academy, behind the Allentown Fire Department Mack Station at 1902 Lehigh St. near the Queen City Airport.

Rather than have the volunteers travel to Bucks County Fire Academy in Doylestown every Sunday, Lower Macungie Fire Department Chief Dave Nosal three years ago arranged for the Bucks County Community County unit to come to Allentown. The volunteers began early in the year– even enduring a classroom training session on Super Bowl Sunday. But, the firefighters stuck it out, and June 19 received their national certification papers for completing the rigorous 190-hour hands-on and classroom Firefighter l course.

The Public Safety Training unit at the Bucks County Community College provides first responder units for 11 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania with national and state level fire, rescue, emergency medical and hazardous materials training and professional certification.

Along the way the volunteers learned life-saving and first-aid skills, learned how to recognize, evaluate and deal with hazardous material incidents. The Hazmat training covered events as small as an anti-freeze spill at a motor vehicle accident scene, to incidents as intimidating as weapons of mass destruction.

The course was sponsored by the Lower Macungie Fire Department and conducted by the Bucks County Community College training unit. Lead instructor was Justin DeLong, a state-certified contract fire educator, as well as deputy chief of the Emmaus Fire Department. Troy Raab, of Coopersburg, also was a certified instructor for the volunteers.

Nosal said the course included building construction; basic interior firefighting skills; fire behavior; forcible entry; personal safety equipment; self-contained breathing apparatus; ropes and knots; search and rescue; vehicle fires; wildland fires; hazardous materials; as well as structural live fire sessions.

Nosal said the certification earned by the 37 candidates was portable, and those who complete the course are entered into a national database. Most states recognize the certification for fire departments in their jurisdiction.

The course was conducted mostly at the Allentown Fire Department's Fire Academy facilities at the Mack South fire station, along Lehigh Street, Allentown.

Candidates were from the following fire departments: Lower Macungie, Alburtis, Coopersburg, Eastern Salisbury, Fountain Hill, Han-Le-Co, Herford, Lower Milford, New Tripoli, Seisholtzville, Trexlertown, Upper Macungie, Western Salisbury, Whitehall and Woodlawn.

Woodlawn Fire Department volunteer Kyle Schlier was named outstanding class graduate. "I've known Kyle since he was a youngster in grade school," DeLong said. "About the time he turned a teenager, he gave me a $100 bill to purchase a used self-contained-breathing unit from me. I took it up to his bedroom and found he had built a firefighter's locker right there in his room. This young man has always had the goal of being a volunteer firefighter."