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Foreclosed house next to N.Y. fire station is new training site

Firefighters from the Penrhyn Engine & Hose Company VFD went to a county tax foreclosure auction to acquire the house, which has been abandoned for years


Kathleen Moore
The Post-Star, Glens Falls, N.Y.

GRANVILLE, N.Y. — There’s not much better for a firefighter than being able to fill a real house with smoke and crawl through it in search of a hidden mannequin.

“It’s definitely fun. You’ve got to keep your members active,” said Penrhyn Engine & Hose Company Volunteer Fire Department Chief Austin Perry, as a group of new and experienced volunteers gathered in the freezing cold Tuesday to practice search and rescue.

Firefighters went to a county tax foreclosure auction to acquire the house, which is next to the fire station and has been abandoned for years. Now that they finally have full ownership, they plan to repaint it and are working on structural repairs so that it can be repeatedly used for training.

The house, and its convenient location, will be a big draw, Perry said. It should keep his current members interested and, hopefully, attract new members to bolster the ranks.

Firefighter Michael Hayward, of Granville, eagerly crawled through the smoky house, as other firefighters taught him how to use his air pack and conduct an efficient search.

He is working toward becoming an interior firefighter, which requires specialized training.

“It was fun, it was really fun,” he said after emerging from the house. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

While others run out of burning houses, he’s eager to run into it.

“The adrenaline rush that you get, and that commitment that you have to the fire department, and because it’s fun,” he said.

Ethan Barnes of Granville, who has been an interior firefighter for six years, was teaching Hayward. He said it’s rare to have to search for a person in a smoke-filled house. So he was glad to practice the maneuvers.

“It gives you a chance to practice our skills. With anything you learn, if you don’t practice, it becomes rusty,” he said.

This time, the “victim” was a bundle of old hoses in a firefighter’s turnout gear, which firefighter Nate Loomins triumphantly carried down a ladder once it was found. Then he dropped it unceremoniously, to general laughter.

Lighthearted practices like this one can serve them well if there is ever that worst-case moment where they need to find someone fast.

“I wouldn’t say it’s not terrifying,” Barnes said. “You just gotta rely on your training.”

The West Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department is benefiting from the new training house, too. A crew drove from the Vermont border community to Granville on Tuesday for the planned training.

“The two new guys are here tonight learning inside,” said Lt. Morgan Williams. “To let them feel the smoke and feel what it’s like with the smoke, it’s always a good experience.”

Training Officer Antonio Landon used Tuesday’s event to not only introduce new firefighters to indoor conditions, but to also practice exterior firefighting. He stressed the importance of communication and coordination, ensuring that a team of two outside knew what the two-person interior team was doing at all times.

“You always want to have a team outside, in case something happens,” he said.

At the door, Brandon Heath of Granville, who joined the fire department one month ago, collected red tags from each firefighter as they entered. When they left, they took their tags back, so that he could be sure no one was left behind. Nearby, member Jim Bradt was organizing air bottles, with full ones on a green tarp, so that firefighters knew which ones to grab.

“Communication and coordination,” Landon said.

There are other training sites. But if the members drive to one of the more centralized locations, there’s always the chance there will be a fire in town while they’re gone. So having a house next door gives them the luxury of training more often, without worrying about fire coverage.

“If we get a fire call, all we have to do is run across the driveway,” Bradt said.


(c)2021 The Post Star (Glens Falls, N.Y.)