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Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 11, 2005

A look at the Montrose Fire Dept.

By Jenni Sebora
Staff Writer

Veteran Montrose Fire Chief Mike Marketon has experienced many changes throughout his more than two decades of service on the Montrose Fire Department.

Training for firefighters and educating the public are hallmarks of the trade, Marketon said.

Marketon has seen changes over time in the amount and types of training the firefighters participate in.

There are ever-increasing training guidelines that the state requires or recommends.

Every firefighter on the Montrose department must take Firefighter I and a first responder course. Every member in the department is a first responder, Marketon said.

Firefighter I requires approximately 120 hours of course work and continued refresher courses to keep certified.

To be a first responder requires approximately 48 hours of initial training and each member is required to pass a test and must retake and pass a test every two years.

First responder requirements are regulated by the Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board (EMSRB), Marketon said.

The department also has one member who is taking training to become an EMT, which requires more training and passage of a national registry test.

“Every two years, the state mails me recertification notices for the members, and I have to sign off if a member has met the recertification requirements,” Marketon said.

Marketon has been involved in the fire prevention program with the elementary students since it started 17 years ago, and has seen the program change and grow.

“Seventeen years ago, my then first grade daughter’s teacher asked me if I would come in and speak about fire prevention to her class, and it has grown ever since,” Marketon said.

Each year, during fire prevention week in October, the fire department now spends approximately one hour with each class, kindergarten through sixth grade, at the fire hall.

The hour is spent inspecting a fire truck and equipment, such as the Jaws of Life, discussing fire safety, including smoke alarm importance, defining a meeting place in case of a fire, how to call 9-1-1, and practicing stop, drop, and roll.

The fire department also built a squirt house, which allows students to squirt water at fires.

Students are also allowed to touch firefighter gear, Marketon explained.

“We let them know that we (the firefighters) are the good guys – not the bad guys,” Marketon said.

The hour usually ends with a question-and-answer time to allow the students to ask questions.

One such question from a sixth grader, some years back, has stuck in Marketon’s mind.

“The student asked us, “What do you do if you are in the shower (and there’s a fire or the smoke alarm goes off)?” And I told him that you wrap yourself in a towel and get out,” Marketon shared.

Every year, at the end of the hour at the fire hall, the students leave with a special memoir from their visit, such as a badge or cup, Marketon said.

“The principals have been wonderful to work with, and the fire prevention program with the children has worked. There are definitely less fires started by children since the start of the prevention program,” Marketon said.

The fire department also participates in monthly trainings that are coordinated and organized by the training officer.

Montrose department’s training officer and 10-year member is Jason Chaffins.

In January, the training focused on highway safety and equipment.

A CPR-refresher course capped off the training in February, and March’s training involved auto extrication and patient assessment.

April’s focus is on pump operation, and ATV accident training will most likely take place in May.

June’s training focus is on truck driving and July, on hose testing. August will involve oil changing and Montrose Days festivities.

In September, the plan is to have a fitness and agility test through an obstacle course format. Rapid intervention team (RIT) training is set for October.

Being part of a RIT team involves approximately eight to 10 hours of training. The purpose of a RIT team is to assist a fire department, probably in a mutual aid situation, if the firefighters are trapped in a burning building or situation and need help, Marketon said.

“We have never had to use the RIT team, and you hope you never do,” Marketon said.

Plans for November’s training will be focusing on dealing with train derailments, hazardous tankers, and leaks with training assistance provided by Burlington Northern.

To round out the year, December’s training will involve members working with ladders, saws, and venting.

With assistance, Chaffins devised and built a room/building simulation with a pitched roof to provide fire department members with practice on skills of working with ladders, saws, and venting.

Chaffins noted that it is a tentative schedule and other trainings take place throughout the year as well, that firefighters participate in, such as, weather spotter training in April and live burn training.

In fact, Marketon and four other Montrose firefighters have taken live burn instructing and are members of a live burn team. Marketon travels all over the state as a live burn instructor.

“It’s very helpful to have members on our department that have received live burn instructing.

They can determine in a fire situation what firefighters can safely go into, and what is not safe to go into.

They can size it up (the fire situation) and know to do an attack (on the fire),” Marketon said.

“We (fire departments) are seeing different situations now than before, such as large train derailments.

House fires are more dangerous for firefighters because houses are built differently now – with lightweight construction, which makes it easier for a collapse,” Marketon said.

Regardless of the changes, both Marketon and Chaffins agree that being a firefighter can be both rewarding and depressing; both became and remain firefighters because they have had role models of family members that have been firefighters and most importantly, they want to help people in time of need.

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