More than 150 firefighters from across northern Ohio spent six hours in the rain and mud Saturday tearing apart dozens of vehicles as training for heavy equipment rescue extrication.
One man even came from Pennsylvania to be both a teacher and a student..
Several said the messy weather was appropriate many accidents occur in nasty weather and firefighters often work in difficult weather conditions.
The day started out a little better with coffee and doughnuts and the chance to visit in a building at the Huron County Fairgrounds. Then the firefighters moved out into the rain and got serious.
This was the second year that the Northern Ohio F.O.O.L.S. put on a free six-hour training session for firefighters. Ohio requires firefighters to take 18 hours of training per year. About 125 firefighters attended the session last year.
Jason Reel, who works for both the Willard Fire Department and the Perrysburg Township squad, said the opportunity to learn and practice techniques was important.
"It's a value to every firefighter. The knowledge we learn here we take back to our departments," he said. "The conditions rain and wind are realistic. Its never a nice, sunny morning. Its usually rain or snow or sleet."
Jamie Starcher, who coordinated the training, said the No. 1 focus of the training was safety.
"This is about brotherhood firefighters learning from each other," he said. Northern Ohio F.O.O.L.S. started four years ago and Starcher said the group wanted to "give back to firefighters." The group holds a yearly raffle to fund the free training they've provided for the past two years.
Royal Chisolm, a firefighter for Fairfield Township, said the staged bus accidents were the worst possible scenario.
"This would be my nightmare a bus full of kids in an accident. What would you do?"
Firefighters worked on two busses during the training. They practiced cutting through the sides in case the front and back doors couldn't be opened and they also climbed up on the roof to check out bringing out children that way.
Chisolm explained the training firefighters practiced when they were faced with an overturned camper.
"Somebody's trapped in that camper and they've got to get them out," he said. The firefighters started with hand tools axes and then compared that with the use of hydraulic equipment.
The work was slow with axes. Chisolm said hydraulic equipment became the standard for even small departments at least 15 years ago.
The Monroeville school district donated an old van used to carry band equipment to the exercise.
"I figured this would be one last public service for the old girl," said Cindy McIntire, who drove the van for five years.
Eric Timbs, president of Northern Ohio F.O.O.L.S., said he was worried about three weeks ago about having enough vehicles to use to stage accidents for the training. After an article in the Norwalk Reflector, he said, offers came pouring in. The organization gave back all vehicles to anyone who wanted to sell the vehicles for scrap metal.
Timbs was a firefighter for Townsend Township before had to go through two knee surgeries. He said the F.O.O.L.S. organization decided to offer the free training to support all fire departments.
"The fire service is a brotherhood it is like no other," he said.
Sandy Waggoner, public safety coordinator at EHOVE, said the day-long session was very important. She also is putting on a two-day session at Kalahari this weekend and said any firefighter who signed up from the session at the Huron County Fairgrounds would have $10 per day from their payment donated to the Northern Ohio F.O.O.L.S. The seminar at Kalahari will focus on bus extrication, chemical and biological injuries and working with SWAT teams.