The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
Apr. 12—When firefighters arranged to conduct search and rescue training on a vacant house in memory of Dominic “Bama” Hunt, who died in a Sylvania Township house fire in February, Mr. Hunt’s fiancée Teresa Laney wanted to be there.
“We had to be here as part of the healing process,” Ms. Laney said.
Through Fireground Training Bureau, area firefighters participated in training all weekend. Working in a smoke-filled house in Rossford to rescue plastic mannequins and dolls simulating real victims, firefighters took turns on different exercises that were designed to replicate a real-life situation as much as possible.
“It’s the beginning of realistic training,” said Pvt. Barrett Dorner, founder of Fireground and a firefighter with Toledo Fire & Rescue Department.
While fire training programs have facilities where drills can take place, Private Dorner said it’s difficult to make those areas feel like a real house. Being able to train in a realistic setting is an invaluable experience, as firefighters learn how to navigate around furniture and how to feel the difference between different types of floorings.
And having Mr. Hunt’s family present at the training is a helpful reminder of why they do this job, Private Dorner said. Firefighters go through the vacant, smoke-filled house and come out to see the family sitting in front of them.
“That element of it has just been amazing,” he said. “The family has just been great.”
On Feb. 3, Ms. Laney said she was home with Mr. Hunt and her son when a fire started in their house. Mr. Hunt had been upstairs sleeping because he worked nights, and Ms. Laney put some of his clothes in the dryer. She heard a loud popping noise and smelled something odd that made her think there could be a fire.
“At that point, I realized something was really wrong,” she said.
Soon the downstairs was completely engulfed in smoke, and Ms. Laney shouted repeatedly for Mr. Hunt. She made it outside with her son. Mr. Hunt never made it outside.
The support of the community has been incredible, Ms. Laney said, and she was thankful for the opportunity to help turn a negative into a positive by dedicating the training to Mr. Hunt’s memory.
Their whole family has been part of the fire service, Ms. Laney said, and he would be thrilled to know his legacy is continuing on.
“It’s always been in our nature to help,” she said.
The firefighters, too, were grateful for the opportunity.
Matthew Baker, firefighter for Liberty Center, said it’s beneficial to have as many different training scenarios in as many different places as possible, because every fire is different and every environment is different.
“You’ve got to figure out that house and that’s realistic,” he said about entering a home for the first time. “You’ve never been in that home before.”
Mr. Baker, a second generation firefighter, said he is a volunteer firefighter but that people count on him as much as they do firefighters in Toledo, and so he needs to be just as proficient as anyone else in responding to emergencies.
And the importance of saving lives is paramount, he said.
“As firefighters, we’re supposed to protect life, property, and the environment,” he said. “Life being first.”
First Published April 11, 2021, 3:07pm
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