The Jenkintown Fire Department — which consists of Pioneer Fire Company and Independent Fire Company — comes together on Thursday evenings for training nights. Through these training nights, the drills ran and lessons learned help ensure the department that its members are proficient in ancillary tasks and prepared for any situation that arises in the community.
“Getting to an incident and trying to figure out what to do is not an option,” said Independent Chief Ken Lynch. “During training, there will be mistakes and training is the place to make them.”
Training for more experienced volunteers may be a refresher, but for newer volunteers it could be the first time they’re learning a specific task or concept. Sometimes training may be in the classroom, other nights it may consist of an outside training drill. It’s vital that volunteers are highly knowledgeable and prepared. The department is aiming to have as many volunteers fully trained and capable for as many scenarios as possible. In some instances, lives or property may be in the balance.
These various exercises are also an opportunity to bring volunteers outside of their comfort zone and working with fellow volunteers they aren’t as familiar with.
“We intentionally mix people up with people they don’t know,” said Lynch. “That is very deliberate.”
Training drills are necessary to practice and prepare to be ready for any type of situation that may occur and to be able to know exactly how to respond, without having any second thought.
“It becomes muscle memory; you automatically know how to go and get it done,” said Independent Deputy Chief Bill Pross during a training session on operating equipment from fire trucks. “You’re operating in rain, snow, almost everything, with hazards, wires and trees factoring in.”
Both chiefs say that the department receives a large number of calls during strong rainstorms. As a result, the department will aim to schedule some drills during inclement weather, for example, by advancing hoselines up steps.
“They get to work together as a team,” said Pioneer Fire Company Chief Nick Pettinati. “It’s pouring rain, guys get to feel what it was like to stretch a line up three flights of stairs.”
Training nights bring a unique array of drills. One evening may involve operating hoses or truck apparatus, others may involve action scenarios.
Kevin Plunkett, a volunteer for 13 years, remembers his first live burn training drill.
“It was exciting but nerve wracking,” he said. “It was a great way to learn how to respond to an actual fire.”
Paul McBride, a member for one year, recalls disaster training. “They turned over a car and put me in it to go through the actions of rescuing me,” he explained. “Honestly, it was scary, but as I started to see the faces of people I knew, it became less so.”
Volunteers may even find some fun in certain training drills. Mike Kolenkiewicz recalls sprinkler suppression training during a record-breaking heat wave.
“We all ended up getting wet, which really felt great,” he said.
Volunteers of Jenkintown Fire Department, like other Montgomery County fire departments, train at the Montgomery County Fire Academy. There are various courses that volunteers are required to partake in, as well as different structures that focus on different types of calls. A four-story drill tower is used for aerial apparatus and ladder work, a smoke house allows for practicing of search and rescue and SCBA (Self-contained breathing apparatus) drills, and a burn building focuses on interior firefighting. Many courses also take place in a classroom setting.
One of Jenkintown’s newest members is Jason Eisiminger. He’s currently attending classes at the Fire Academy and hopes to make an eventual career out of firefighting.
“I’m here to learn as much as I can,” he said shortly before a training night. “So far it’s been like a family, everyone has been welcoming.” Eisiminger points out that many volunteers have taken the time to point things out around the fire house and guide him in the right direction.
Members of leadership all said that the key is to keep volunteers engaged in activities and training.
“You have to keep training on the bread and butter,” said Pettinati.
About Jenkintown Fire Department
For any Jenkintown residents who would like to “be the neighbor who saves a neighbor,” visit https://fightjenkintownfires.org/. The department – which includes Pioneer Fire Company and Independent Fire Company – welcomes individuals to join as firefighters, fire police, and contributing members.