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Fire crews to learn heavy-duty lesson.

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

A specialized unit of Eugene-Springfield firefighters begins a new class this morning. The subject: how to use heavy-duty tools and equipment to rescue people from collapsed buildings.

The equipment and training, paid for by the federal Department of Homeland Security, is part of the nationwide effort to improve rescue capabilities after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, fire officials said.

Aware of the possibility of Northwest earthquakes, officials said the tools and training also could help in the rescue of people after a severe temblor.

Fire officials have "long recognized the potential for catastrophic earthquakes in the Willamette Valley and the potential for significant structural collapse," the State Fire Marshal's Office said.

Many firefighters already know how to extricate people from collapsed buildings, Eugene Fire Capt. Tim Cramblit said.

But the $300,000 worth of equipment and instruction paid for by Homeland Security will give Eugene-Springfield firefighters extra proficiency in using power saws, cutting torches, heavy-lifting air bags and other devices capable of cutting through or moving rubble, he said.

The 42 firefighters who will receive the training during the next two weeks are part of an urban search-and-rescue team, one of three such teams in Oregon formed by state officials and staffed by various fire departments.

The other teams are based in Portland and Salem.

The Eugene-Springfield training, led by instructors from Spec Rescue International, a private firm based in Virginia Beach, Va., will cost about $50,000, said Cramblit, the Eugene Fire Department captain.

The Department of Homeland Security will reimburse Eugene and Springfield for the training, he said.

A Homeland Security grant to the Oregon Emergency Management agency bought $250,000 of tools and equipment, including such specialized gear as microphones that can be lowered into rubble to listen for trapped people, and air-pumping equipment to help trapped people breathe.

Once they are done with training, firefighters of the Eugene-Springfield urban search-and-rescue team will have access to the equipment, stored in a tractor-trailer so it can quickly be moved to an emergency site.

The Eugene-Springfield team primarily will be responsible for the southern part of Oregon, Cramblit said.

But the firefighters could be taken to Portland, Salem or anywhere in the state by Oregon Army National Guard helicopter, if an emergency requires it, he said.

CAPTION(S):

Eugene firefighters demonstrate new tools acquired to help in rescues involving collapsed buildings. The training and equipment have been paid for by the federal government.
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Title Annotation:Fires; Local firefighters will be trained on new equipment to help trapped victims
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Words:416
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