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Homes slated for demolition offer unique training opportunities for firefighters in training

More than a dozen cadets from College of the Mainland’s fire academy were able to practice their skills on a real house, thanks to a program with Galveston County’s housing department.

The program allows homes scheduled for demolition to be used as a unique training opportunity for aspiring firefighters.

Friendswood Fire chief and the program’s coordinator Stan Kozlowski said the hands on experience is vital for their transition into a lifesaving career.

“We don’t have fires everyday but we need to be able to perform perfectly when there is one,” Kozlowski said. “We don’t want to discuss simple mistakes when they could have been taken care of with an afternoon worth of training.”

During these exercises Kozlowski said cadets are able to learn what to do after arriving on a fire scene.

“They put to test their forcible entry skills, emergency exit skills and ventilating a roof,” he said, “to see what their capabilities are.”

According to Galveston County Housing Director James Gentile it’s a win-win situation. The home’s former owner received a new house under the county’s opportunity program.

“It works out for everyone,” Gentile said. “She gets a chance to live somewhere better and safer and we get a chance to play today.”

The program started after Hurricane Ike, in ’09 and Gentile said eventually the program will lead to a build out of about 1500 homes, most of which will first have to be demolished. Kozlowki said that will increase the opportunity for real life practice, which is a must for the academy’s “live to learn” teaching method.

“It’s not a career you choose it’s something you were born to do,” he said. “A life of service in fire is one minute explaining to someone how you’re going to get their dog out of the sewer, to the next minute, a structure fire with possible victims… it’s a unique lifestyle.”

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