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Carthage-Wilna Fire District makes changes to comply to escape law

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CARTHAGE — With approval from the Carthage-Wilna Fire District, the Carthage Fire Department will implement new procedures to come into compliance with a new state law concerning bailout gear.

In August, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation requiring employers to provide emergency escape plans to firefighters who risk entrapment in structures taller than one story.

The labor law requires employers to assess the risk and provide training for firefighters.

To come into compliance with the new legislation, Brian J. Draper, head driver for the Carthage-Wilna Fire District, conducted a risk assessment for the Long Falls Apartments, which is the tallest building in the district.

Also, along with Carthage Fire Chief Sean P. McHale, Mr. Draper came up with procedures for tracking training and inspection of the bailout gear.

Changes in regulations for both have been amended because injuries have occurred statewide during training. Mr. Draper told the board of commissioners at its Wednesday meeting that training now is required annually as opposed to a one-time session and that the equipment must be inspected every month. In addition, there must be a more secure tie-off for the training apparatus.

The board agreed that Mr. Draper would continue as the health and safety officer for the district and department and would oversee the training and inspections, with Chief McHale following up with firefighters who are negligent.

“If a firefighter is not in compliance, they would be moved from the status of interior firefighter to scene support,” Mr. Draper said.

“They are making it very difficult for firefighters to fight fires,” Commissioner David M. Broyles said.

The head driver and chief will draft a policy manual for the fire district to address how to react to a fire in multistory buildings such as Long Falls Apartments, which commonly is called the High Rise.

Chief McHale reported a large number of recruits are taking the state Firefighter I course in Lewis County.

“We are moving in the right direction,” he said of the added members. “It’s the new recruits who show up ready and willing at the scene.”

He also said the department is making use of the “I am responding” program to gauge whether it needs additional manpower.

The chief said the department has been keeping up with training, having just completed cold-water training with the West Carthage Fire Department. He said it also is looking into participating in swift-water training.

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