MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP, YORK COUNTY, Pa. --As volunteer firefighter numbers are dropping across the state, students from Harrisburg Area Community College are making the commitment to put on the turn-out gear.
Extreme temperatures, smoke and low visibility are just some of the things students who were training at the York County Fire School on Saturday got to experience to help prepare them for the real thing.
"Firefighting is an inherently dangerous occupation whether you are career or volunteer and anything can happen," said John Livingston, Administrator at York County Fire School.
Which is why the 160 hour training for the job requires some serious stamina.
"It`s hard work, it`s very much hard work, you can do this at negative 10 degrees, you can do this on a 90 or 100 degree day, and they are in 60 pounds of gear that`s meant to protect them but these guys, they are working as a team and that`s what firefighting is, it's team work," added Livingston.
Students in training first have to learn how to deal with different types of interior fire conditions.
"We`re giving them simulated incidents to basement fires, second floor fires, getting them exposures to true heat and smoke conditions in a fire building," said Chad Deardorff, President of the Fire Chiefs of Firefighters Association of York County.
Those grueling conditions can either make you, or break you, putting you through to the next training, or with the other 15 percent that end up dropping out.
"Things can go wrong really really quick. It`s a matter of them understanding and making sure that they know that this is very labor intensive, very physically demanding, and that things can go wrong," added Deardorff.
That`s why volunteer firefighters are needed now more than ever.
"The volunteer fire system is dwindling in the commonwealth and you know, it`s just getting worse," added Livingston.
"People have to understand if we can`t get volunteer numbers up, that`s going to cost tax payers significant increases in taxes because they`re going to have to have that protection somehow and that`s typically at the cost of a career department," said Deardorff.
If you're interested in becoming a firefighter, contact your local fire department.