MUNCY – Volunteer firefighters from Muncy, Hughesville and Picture Rocks service areas could be seen last Saturday battling a fire located in Muncy Creek Township off John Brady Road near the Sunoco Station along Muncy Creek. However, this was not a real disaster, but an all day “live burn” meant for training purposes under “live conditions” to battle a regular house fire according to Muncy Deputy Chief, Jamie Brelsford.
The chosen site took two months of planning and getting DEP permits before final acquisition of the property to be used for this training site. The home was once the homestead of firefighter, Ralph Balliet. It is now abandoned and was acquired by Muncy Creek Township through mitigation because it is in the flood plain. “Its location made it ideal for us to do this,” said Brelsford. There are no nearby power lines or structures to contend with and there is a nearby stream to keep the water flowing all the time, so it won’t freeze under icy conditions. This hands-on training allows teams of firefighters with their instructors learn how to extinguish an aggressive fire attack. It can be a “do or die” moment in a real life situation where a lot is at stake.
These types of properties do not become available often for this type of training according to Brelsford. “It was probably about ten years ago when we had something like this,” he said, “and it might be another ten years before another property comes along. We had to run through clearances through the State Fire Academy in Lewistown and the Harrisburg Area Community College helped to sponsor it by providing the instructors,” he replied.
November 30th was the designated date given to them before its demolition which was scheduled for December 3rd. Upon completion approximately 20 firefighters will be certified for this 16 hour accredited program. Ten instructors assisted the training and worked with each crew, a team of two, to see the evolutions of the fire which started on the second floor at 8 a.m. Saturday.
“This is invaluable training we can’t get anywhere else,” said Scott Delany, Fire Chief for the Muncy Area Volunteer Fire Company. Delany also set up the new “Duty Truck” which will be the command desk for all disasters in the area. It had its first official run on Saturday at the Fire Burn training where all operations centered around its presence.
“This is a very unique vehicle for our fire company,” said Delany. “It will be on duty 24/7 with an immediate response always. Wherever our station is called, it will go.” It is equipped with a computer system with multiple communication programs, speakers, phones, thermal imaging cameras, and a mapping system. Information is acquired at their fingertips. According to Delany, Muncy has some of the largest hazardous materials on sites, more so than anywhere in the state. “For example, Weatherford Oil & Gas deals with explosives and the computer can download information we need from these hazardous sites,” added Delany. “Some hazardous materials can’t have water on them.” The computer also provides evacuation distances and eliminates the need to carry cumbersome textbooks.
The “Duty Truck”, a 2006 Chevy Tahoe, also carries a medical kit, defibrillator, water rescue kits, and air packs. It was purchased through a used fire apparatus dealer and has been in operation for about a month. Other units have them, but they are not always on duty. “This one is always on duty, on the street 24 hours,” said Delany who has been with the Muncy Area Fire Company for 35 years. “This is a real benefit to the community.”