Through the Roof: Fire training at shuttered motel draws nine companies

By on January 11, 2017

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What were you doing on Saturday, Jan. 7, when it was snowing and 20 degrees Fahrenheit?

For about 70 volunteer firefighters it was an 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. training day outdoors. The training site was the former Penn Dutch Motel, 2275 N. Reading Road, in East Cocalico Township.

Garden Spot Frame and Alignment, the new owner of the eight-acre site, will demolish the former one-story motel, built in 1953, within two months.

“We want to begin demolition while the ground is still frozen so we don’t drag mud all around the area,” said Rob Sample of the company’s towing division. “We want to be good stewards of the land.”

“We handed over the keys to Reamstown Fire Chief Scott Achey for eight weeks so the site could be used for fire training purposes,” said Sample, himself a 34-year volunteer firefighter.

“It’s not often you get a site where, when you practice cutting into a roof, you don’t need to replace the plywood and roofing material when finished,” said Achey. “This is a great opportunity for training and we’ve used it on different dates with different fire companies.”

At a previous Saturday training the owner’s living quarters at the 20-room motel were filled with smoke and the ‘rescue’ of a trapped person was practiced. Other training involved ‘rescuing’ fire personnel who fell into the basement.

On Jan. 7, nine fire companies trained with highly qualified trainers leading instruction prior to the action starting. While some trainers were local, others came from Reading, Spring and Cumru townships, and one from the Philadelphia area. The nine companies included: Reamstown, Smokestown, Stevens, Adamstown, Denver, Schoeneck, Ephrata, Gordonville, and Cumru, Berks County.

With five ladder trucks, lots of roof cutting occurred.

Donations of different kinds of commercial locks provided forcible entry training. Practice was also done on single-man ladder raise and ventilation techniques.

All expenses incurred for Saturday’s training were paid by Garden Spot Frame and Alignment. Sample said the company works on many companies’ fire apparatus.

“We try to support fire companies by offering free tows for fire equipment, free pull-outs for equipment stuck in mud and we replace hazmat supplies used at wrecks,” said Sample.

What does one feed firefighters working long and hard in cold, snowy weather?

Stevens Fire Chief Chad Weaver was in charge of food. He had a small trailer on site.

Due to inclement weather, the menu changed from barbecue chicken to chicken pot pie and chicken corn noodle soup. What was the former laundry room at the motel had long tables and chairs squeezed into it to allow the volunteers and trainers to get inside, sit down, and refuel for the latter half of the training day.

Many firefighters commented on the great value of the cooperative training day. Firefighters at each of the five training stations were from different fire companies.

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