COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association’s 114th Annual Fire-Rescue Conference is back in Columbia.
This is the second year in a row it’s back in Columbia after 32 years. It was moved to Columbia in 2018 from Myrtle Beach.
It’s one of the state’s oldest and largest yearly conventions- which brings thousands of firefighters, first responders, their families and other visitors to the capital city for a week-long training of hands-on training, seminars, exhibits, contests, and family events.
The bulk of the conference will include firefighter and first responder classes and training exercises that will put participants through unique situations. Those scenarios include Wildland fire training, flood boat rescue and more.
One of the classes offered at The South Carolina Fire Academy was the advanced/ autobus extrication program.
The program presented techniques and tips that can assist the rescuer in extricating trapped patients from school bus accidents.
About a group of 20 firefighters from across the state learned to cut through the thick metal on the top of a bus in case it is ever flipped over.
This is sometimes found after a crash, or if it went up or down an embankment and rolls to the side, creating what firefighters say is different kind of challenge to get people out.
They say the challenge comes when the bus is laid on its side, and the students are trapped along the windows; piled on top of each other.
Part of the training is geared towards learning how to create larger openings to get people out as fast as possible.
Keith Wilson, an Instructor of the class said, “A bus has a lot of students in it. It could have up to 80 students, so time is a critical factor when you got that many students and you got a lot of metal you have to move to get to those patients. It’s really a mass care situation where we have to take care of a lot of people.”
While it may be a rare occasion to find a bus flipped on its side, the goal is to keep firefighters prepared.
“We have about a half a million buses on the road each year, it’s one of the safest transportation modes there is,” Wilson said. “But when they do have accidents they’re tough, they’re built tough, and so firefighters need to know how to get in those busses.”
Jesse Watkins, a North Augusta Firefighter who attended the class said, “For us to have the knowledge and we may not do it for a couple of years, or a couple of months, or just any length of time in between our training and now, but it’ll still be in the back of the head and we’ll have an easier way of doing it making it easier for us.”
As practice makes perfect, Wilson says the hardest part is having to think about the emotions.
“These people work in the communities that busses may be traveling with their children, a neighbors child, someone they know, so the emotions I cannot give that to them but it’s the number one thing they have to block out so they can take care of all the patients,” Wilson said.
The Department of Education donated the buses for fire academy to practice on.
This year, there are plenty of events for the public to attend. Some those events include a barbecue taste test, a firefighter appreciation night and a stair climb of the BB&T Building in Columbia. There will also be exhibits in the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center and Colonial Life Arena.
Find the full schedule of activities, register for activities, and find out how you can volunteer click here.