Tones go off and they willingly leave work to save a life, a home, or a business.

 Beepers become alarm clocks, waking them in the dead of night or early morning. Volunteers are a special breed.


Tones go off and they willingly leave work to save a life, a home, or a business.
 Beepers become alarm clocks, waking them in the dead of night or early morning. Volunteers are a special breed.

That commitment comes through for a class of 18 taking  a 166-hour Essentials of FireFighting Certification course offered through the Bucks County Community College. Three times a week, from 6 p.m.-10 p.m., they meet at the Northern Wayne Fire Company, doing drills and receiving instruction, not including 8-hour weekends thrown in. Thirteen of the volunteers are from Northern Wayne Fire Company, five are from Pleasant Mount, says Fire Suppression Instructor Michael Hill, who along with fellow instructor Tom Tratthen, are teaching the course. Both Hill and Tratthen are career fire fighters; Hill with Tobyhanna Army Depot and Tratthen with Sanofi Pasteur in Swiftwater.  

 
The in-depth study program stresses safety. “We average over 100 firefighter deaths a year in the United States,” Tratthen said, “Pennsylvania is consistently first or second on that list as far as deaths go.”


“There are 33 thousand volunteer fire companies in the United States. Of those, 25 percent of them are within the boarders of Pennsylvania,”said Hill, Assistant Chief with White Mills Volunteer Fire Department.


Valerie McGraw, Ambulance Captain for Northern Wayne and a student in the class said, “I feel this course was essential, not only to the firefighters, but to the community members. This enables our firefighters to be able to respond to a fire and know how to correctly and quickly try to put out the fire ...There’s always something new to learn. Things are always changing.”


The course was broken down into four areas of study: history of the fire service, fire/ground support, exterior fire fighter, and interior firefighting. The last area of study, interior firefighting, may only be taken by volunteers 18 years of age or older since federal law restricts who may enter a burning building, Hill said.


Hill said certification is key for fire companies looking to secure federal grants for new equipment, etc. “The government is tying in certification requirements to receive that money,” Tratthen said.


The Essentials of FireFighting Certification course has involved a lot of hands-on training, including venting the roof on a garage, using the Jaws of Life for extrication, setting up search and rescue with firefighters finding their way through a pitch black maze and more. Northern Wayne Fire Chief John Peper is pleased with the number of people taking the course, himself included. “I can’t believe the response we got,” he said.  Class finishes up April 5.