Valdosta firefighters train in tight spaces - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Valdosta firefighters train in tight spaces

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By Alicia Eakin - bio | email

September 17, 2008

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - The City of Valdosta fire department is one of nine agencies recognized by GEMA as a Georgia Search and Rescue team.

Because of this, they could be called to any large scale disaster or emergency anywhere in the state.

They want to make sure they are ready.

Wednesday, they trained in some tight places.

None of these firefighters have the luxury of being clausterfobic. They could be called to a confined space rescue anytime.

"Most confined space rescues are in an industrial setting but they are in the natural every day things.  Wells that have been covered up that we don't know about. Things like that," Sgt Brian Boutwell of the Valdosta Fire Department.

Wednesday, they are training in tight quarters...preparing for that call.  It would require them to squeeze several rescuers and emergency equipment into small spaces.  Then maneuver fallen workers to safety. 

It's no easy job and one of the deadliest rescues they'll ever attempt.

"You don't have an idea what the atmosphere may be.  60% of would be rescuers die from atmospheric issues because the monitor didn't pick up what was present in the space," says co-owner of GS training associates Barry Hopper.

So training like this could not only save the life of others, but save one their own.

"It is definitely awareness to what the potential hazards are inside the space," Hopper says.

A total of 75 firefighters will receive this training throughout the year and once certified, GEMA will call this elite group to any major disasters.

So if you ever find yourself in a confined space or any other area in need of rescue, the Valdosta fire department will be ready to answer calls for help in the city, the state and the nation.

The firefighters say they are halfway through the GEMA training. So far 32 firefighters have gone through the program. Another 33 will receive it over the next year.

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