The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

April 7, 2013

Training day: Nearly 300 firefighters participate in variety of courses

PATTON — From a distance, it could have been mistaken for a Hollywood action movie set.

On one corner of a sprawling 25-acre site in West Carroll Township, crews on Sunday were cutting through an overturned tractor-trailer cab to rescue someone trapped inside. Just yards away, a tactical team was working quickly to build a support frame around a door in a building they were told was in danger of collapsing.

And up the hill, firefighters were storming into a home and crawling through dark rooms to find a fire victim trapped on the third floor.

But it was all a drill – the type local volunteers have organized for 59 consecutive years at the Cambria County Fire School, bringing hundreds of fresh-faced firefighters from across the state to a former West Carroll Township mine property-turned training ground to hone their craft.

“For young firefighters, training begins at their home fire station. But they’re not going to get a chance just anywhere to rip through tractor-trailers or tear into a building to practice a rescue,” said John Hawksworth, the school’s site committee chairman and an instructor for more than 30 years.

Sponsored by Cambria’s Volunteer Firemen’s Association and Bucks County Community College, weekend courses brought 285 students from as far away as the Scranton area, he said.

Dozens of them are junior-level firefighters ages 14 to 17, Hawksworth added.

“Basically,” Hawksworth said, “this is where you come to hone your skills.”

Behind him, firefighters were practicing rappelling on a wooden tower – a skill that comes into play when vehicles roll down steep hillsides or other hard-to-access locations.

Firefighters younger than 18 received a course on safety, practiced “hitting” hydrants – connecting them to the water source to prepare to attack a fire. Then they swarmed on a building in four- man teams to spray it down, said Jacob Peretin, 17, a firefighter with Adams Township’s Station 84 in St. Michael.

“We dealt with everything but the fire,” Peretin said of the drill, noting they were only permitted to watch older firefighters fight flames.

“There was a lot more going on here than I expected,” added Tyler Cadwallader, 14, a junior firefighter with Portage Volunteer Fire Company.

Up the hill, other firefighters used ladder trucks to practice venting holes in the roof of the school’s burn building, made almost entirely of reinforced concrete.

Outside, East Conemaugh firefighter Tom Reighard Jr. was practicing a rescue. With a few quick moves, he turned an “injured” firefighter’s backpack into a harness he could use to drag the man from a danger zone.

“Sometimes, you only have a few seconds,” Hawksworth said.

He said a 10-member staff of volunteers oversees the drills. Dozens of firefighters spend time in the days before the classes setting the Fire School up and donations also play a role, he noted, saying Cresson-based Calandra Industries donates salvage vehicles for the emergency drills.

Over the next three weeks, the school will serve as a training ground for more than 750 firefighters, organizers said.

“Oftentimes, learning the basics – setting a ladder or rolling a hose – scares young firefighters off,” Hawksworth said, noting those 100 hours of training are a necessary precursor to the training that was offered. “By the time they make it here, they’re bit. Firefighting’s in the blood.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • smothers ‘It breaks my heart’: Shooting victim’s death leaves trail of shattered lives

    Victoria Smothers knows what people thought when they heard that a young black male had been shot to death in Moxham last week.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • School violence studied

    On a typical day last year, Pennsylvania schools caught 11 students toting weapons similar to ones used to slash 21 students and a security guard at a Pittsburgh-area high school, according to the state Department of Education. An untold number of others likely brought weapons to school but weren’t caught, safety experts say.

    April 16, 2014

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    April 16, 2014

  • egg hunt17 ACRP quietly notes 25th anniversary

    There will be little or no fanfare accompanying Alternative Community Resource Program’s 25th anniversary.
    And that’s how the executive director, Frank Janakovic, wants it.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • windber17 Windber students earn top ‘Overchiever’ rank

    Windber Area school’s PSSA scores have been tops in the region for the past several years.
    This year, they’re among the head of the class statewide, Pittsburgh Business Times annual Schools Guide shows.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wise, Charles Police charge bank robbery suspect

    A Johnstown man was jailed on $250,000 bond after police said he robbed the West End Branch of AmeriServ Financial. Charles Wise, 48, of Barron Avenue, was charged with two counts of robbery.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Inmate awaits sentencing for assault on guard

    A former inmate faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced for assaulting a corrections officer at State Correctional Institution-Somerset, authorities said.

    April 16, 2014

  • windber pool Pool stays afloat despite troubles

    When a valve broke at the Windber Recreation Park pool last month, its municipal authority caretakers feared that meant the end for the pool’s aged, much-patched liner.
    But the old liner has held up – a stroke of luck that will save Windber Municipal Authority from having to seek a line of credit to cover repairs or risk delaying the pool opening, the authority’s recreation director, C.W. Beckley, said.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Creativity blossoming for spring art show

    The 16th annual Art in Bloom spring art show will brighten the Cambria County Courthouse in Ebensburg from noon to 6 p.m. April 26 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 27.

    April 16, 2014

  • Alcatraz Challenge offers escape from routine

    Greater Johnstown Community YMCA is gearing up for its indoor biathlon, the Alcatraz Challenge.

    April 16, 2014


Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads