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Final testing day
by David Hull, Chief
North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department


January 17, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - If you were to stop by at Station 2 on Saturday the 8th, you would have thought the world was coming to an end. There were people gathered in a room frantically going over notes and practicing skills, others were struggling to get into their protective clothing and breathing air packs, still others could be seen tying knots and hoisting tools with ropes or sitting in a cramped trailer answering questions about smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

jpg Firefighters

North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department Firefighter I Class
(back row) Jessica Freeman, Stacy Francis, Britney Freeman from the South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department -- (middle row, standing from left) Steve Phillips, Scott Hildebrandt, Jerry Kiffer (NTVFD), Brian Short (Ketchikan Fire Department) Jack Rodgers (NTVFD) Chris Nunamaker (USCG), John Goucher (Instructor, KFD) -- (front row, knelling from left) David Monean, Gretchen Skillings (NTVFD), Greg Cook (STVFD), Cathy Tighe, Paul Hook, Wendy Mackie (NTVFD).
Photo courtesy NTVFD

Outside in the frigid temperatures you would have found firefighters putting ladders up against buildings, and a fire in a small room that just did not appear to go out. Time and again, the firefighters would rush in with charged hose in hands, only to back out and turn the hose over to another firefighter for their turn at the stubborn fire all the while watched closely by an other firefighter writing notes on a clip board. Finally when all seemed lost, as the last of the firefighters had their chance, the fire was finally extinguished. What in the world was going on?

What was going on was the final testing day of a firefighting class that started on October 5, 2004. The class was taught under strict national standards and the students will receive a State of Alaska Firefighter I certification recognized by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC). The class was an extensive, well delivered class that introduces the basics of firefighting skills and stresses the significance of safety on the emergency scene. John Goucher, with over 20 years of firefighting experience with Ketchikan Fire Department, was the lead instructor for the course. Students of the class were members of the all three island fire departments and the US Coast Guard and included both experienced and first time firefighters.

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Wendy Mackie (in front) being tested by Frank Divelbiss in the burn room at Station 2.
Photo courtesy NTVFD

As with any effort of this type, there are many people that need to be thanked. Chief Rich Liepfert of the Ketchikan Fire Department and Chief Scott Davis, former Chief of the South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department, need to be thanked for their support and use of their fire stations and equipment for portions of the class. Thank you to Ken Montero, Terry Roberts, Warren Lee, Frank Divelbiss, Tracy Mettler, Scott Davis, John Wyle, Gaylen Brevik of Castle Rock Firefighting Consulting and a big thanks to Assistant Chief Jim Hill. Special thanks go out to Mr. Ray Perin and all the NTVFD staff who participated in the training burn on December 11, 2004 next to Lighthouse Grocery.

All in all it was an extensive effort put forth by everyone involved. It also is an example of the value of all the fire departments working together toward a common goal. This goal was best exhibited in the outstanding group effort Wednesday, January 5th as firefighters responded to a house fire at 4742 North Tongass Highway. A tough fire was extinguished by a tough group of firefighters from all three departments, an example of the value of training together.

An Assistance to Firefighters FEMA grant paid for the class.



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