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Firefighters gain extrication skills at ESTC training

Click to enlarge Firefighters gain extrication skills at ESTC training

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Firefighter Scott Padgett, of Southern Pines Fire and Rescue, uses a hydraulic spreader to widen a ... (more)

Click to enlarge Firefighters gain extrication skills at ESTC training

click to enlarge ⊗

Firefighters gathered from fire departments around North Carolina, as well as from New York, Virginia, ... (more)

06.02.2011College & CommunityContinuing Education

SANFORD — Firefighters from around North Carolina and four other states sawed and pried at badly damaged vehicles, learning or refreshing their skills in gaining access to victims trapped inside a vehicle in a severe crash. 

More than 30 firefighters gathered at Central Carolina Community College’s Emergency Services Training Center May 13 for the ESTC’s first “Extrication College.” The firefighters worked with cutters, hydraulic spreaders, rams, and powerful reciprocating saws to cut through and remove sections of vehicles, skills they could use in a real accident to reach victims.

“This training offers the attendees a chance to ‘train in context,’” said instructor Billy Leach Jr. “The goal is to provide the latest and best information and training available to respond to these types of accidents.”

Leach has been involved in emergency services since 1976. He is a member of the North Carolina Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 7, which responded to the collapse of the Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse building, in Sanford, in the April 16 tornado.

Leach trains emergency responders from around the county. He previously taught Big Rig Rescue and Big Lift U training sessions, involving large vehicles, at the ESTC.

Among those taking part in the training was Travis Vanderkolk, an engineer with the Charlotte Fire Department.

“I came to enhance my skills,” he said. “We respond to accidents every day and need to know these techniques, what to do if the situation arises.”

Firefighter Timothy Lee, of Sanford, is a volunteer with the Deep River Fire Department and a driver/operator with the Southern Pines Fire Department. He took all his Firefighter I and Emergency Medical Technician classes at the ESTC and is now working on an associate degree in fire protection at Durham Technical Community College.

“I’ve been a firefighter for nine years, so this class was a good refresher,” he said. “It also provided more advanced technical training that I wanted.” 

Part of that training included working around the advanced steel that many cars now use in places such as doorposts. Instead of wasting critical time and effort trying to cut through one of these posts to remove a door and get to a victim, Leach showed how to cut a pie-shaped wedge through the softer steel in the roof above the post to be able to remove the post and then the door.

During the day of training, the firefights also saw a demonstration of the use of a light duty wrecker to move a vehicle away from an obstacle, presented by Kevin Ciecorka, of Chatham Alignment & Towing.

“Since opening in 2001, the Emergency Services Training Center has attracted emergency response personnel from the mountains to the coast of North Carolina as well as from across the United States, Canada and Germany,” said Landis Phillips, ESTC director. “Emergency responders must constantly train to meet the requirements of an ever-changing field as well as to enhance their skills in traditional areas of their job function.” 

Phillips added that specialty training in firefighting, rescue, emergency medical services and law enforcement provided by the ESTC benefits not only those personnel attending the training but the Sanford/Lee County area in general as it brings much needed revenue into the local economy.

Firefighters involved in the training came from Rochester, N.Y.; Stafford, Va.; Frederick County, Md.; Morristown, N.J.: and the following North Carolina departments: Spout Springs Emergency Services, Southern Pines Fire & Rescue, Ft. Bragg Fire & Emergency Services, Deep River Volunteer Fire Department, Pembroke Rescue Squad, Davie Volunteer Fire Department, Morrisville Fire & Rescue, Franklinville Fire Department, Wilmington Fire Department, and Winterville Fire Rescue & EMS.

For more information on the ESTC and its training programs, call Phillips at (919) 777-7779 or email at