Mayor, city leaders named honorary firefighters after controlled burn
Published 3:00 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2015
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
ALABASTER – Watching the city’s firefighters enter the smoke-filled house off U.S. 31 on Dec. 4, Alabaster Mayor Marty Handlon knew it wasn’t an easy feat. But it wasn’t until she donned the gear herself she realized how difficult it really was.
“They said the gear weighted about 60 pounds, but it felt more like 100 pounds,” Handlon said during a Dec. 21 City Council meeting. “I do appreciate the guys taking time away from training to let us experience a little bit of what they do every day.”
Handlon, City Council members Rick Walters and Stacy Rakestraw and Building Services Coordinator Sherri Proctor joined about 35 firefighters from the Alabaster, Pelham, Calera and Helena fire departments throughout the day on Dec. 8 as they conducted a live-fire training exercise at an abandoned house next to Shelby Baptist Medical Center.
The idea came about when Harbert Realty Services Inc., which recently purchased the land adjacent to the Arby’s restaurant near the hospital to construct a new restaurant and office development, approached the Fire Department about using one of the abandoned houses on the property for training purposes.
After conducting a thorough safety check of the property, the department spent weeks preparing the building for a controlled burn
The department began the day by setting several small fires inside the structure and sending teams of fully geared firefighters into the house to hone their skills in a realistic scenario.
“The training we conducted was extremely important,” Alabaster Fire Chief Jim Golden said during the council meeting, noting the departments were able to practice victim location and extraction, fire suppression and other vital skills during the training. “We were able to replicate a scenario we typically only encounter in emergency situations.”
While teams of firefighters entered the burning building during the about 10-hour training session, Handlon, Walters, Rakestraw and Proctor donned full fire protection gear – complete with oxygen masks – and experienced the training firsthand.
“To even be invited and get to go into the house, it was a huge honor,” Rakestraw said. “It was a great thing to see how y’all work. Our fire department is top-notch.”
During the City Council meeting, Golden presented the city officials who suited up with the fire department with their own Alabaster Fire Department helmets.
“Thank you for your interest and your desire to learn more about what we do,” Golden said.