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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Fire school instructors apply lessons in the South

Instructors from the State Fire School, located in Bowling Green, are taking what they teach here and applying their skills for hurricane relief in Mississippi.

Instructor at the State Fire School, Grant Light, helped where the eye of the storm hit as an early responder to Hurricane Katrina.

“New Orleans survived the storm, it wasn’t until 24 hours after the storm hit that their levies broke. Gulfport, Miss. did not survive the storm. This is who got the brunt of the storm,” Light said.

When Light and his team got to Gulfport, he said that it was visible how much work needed to be done.

“They were decimated down there, their town was almost completely gone. They really needed us,” Light said. “The day after the storm, the emergency operation center in Gulfport had a list of areas that they couldn’t get in to. So we got in to these areas and began our search and rescue.”

Ann Betts, the director of the State Fire School, said these instructors train students so they can help in disasters like Hurricane Katrina. One of the major training classes is in stabilizing unsafe buildings and houses.

“We teach our students how to secure unstable buildings so that it is safe for the rescue team to enter a building,” Betts said.

Stabilizing buildings is a major accomplishment for instructors in disaster areas.

“They go house to house and building to building to search for victims in need of help. They will mark the structures they have rescued so that future teams will know not to keep checking the same houses over and over,” she said.

These instructors are all members of the Ohio Task Force 1 team for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Task force 1 was waiting up north to move in with eight other rescue teams prior to Katrina. At one point all 28 FEMA teams were involved with Katrina cleanup.

Several of the school’s instructors have helped with the disaster relief in the World Trade Center bombings, Hurricane Katrina and now Hurricane Rita. There were five instructors from the State Fire School that responded to Hurricane Katrina in Gulfport and Pass Christian, Miss., and three instructors to Hurricane Rita. Betts said the students are lucky to have instructors who have been in high-risk situations.

“Students at the State Fire School are very fortunate to have people who have actually been out in the field or responded to disasters like the World Trade Center, Katrina and Rita,” Betts said.

Because of these well-experienced instructors, the State Fire School is producing well-educated firefighters and emergency medical staff, according to Jim Rittervach, who has taken several classes for his fire fighting and paramedic career.

“The school is very informational and more than prepares its students to successfully rescue those in need,” Rittervach said.

With more training and classes Rittervach hopes to someday help with disaster relief.

The school offers classes to educate and train future firefighters and emergency medical professionals and equips these individuals with the best tools to be effective in the field. The instructors help educate and train students on how to use these tools. The school hosts classes twice a year; 40 classes in the spring and 10 in the fall.

According to Light, the most important thing that the State Fire School teaches their students is how to work together as a team.

“You get thrown in with a batch of people, firefighters from everywhere wanting to help, and we know how to handle that because that’s what we are trained to do,” Light said.


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