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Training Firefighters to be Cool in Blaze in Valhalla

VALHALLA, N.Y. -- A fierce blaze rises 30 feet and savages the iron walls around it, while Julio Sosa, of Sleepy Hollow, and nearly a dozen firefighters from across Westchester step closer. They move in inch by inch, ignoring the increasing heat. At about 10 feet from the flames they kneel down, the water jets from their two hoses holding the flames back. One of them then valiantly crawls forward, stomach on the ground, and, reaching to a valve, finally stops the propane flow that fed the fire. The exercise is over.

“Good job! Good job!” the instructor shouts.

Sosa, 16, and a junior at Sleepy Hollow High School, took the drill in stride.

The firefighter training conducted Wednesday at the Department of Emergency Services, on Dana Road at Valhalla, had all the elements of a real fire. It was especially directed at volunteer college and high school students who can’t attend the regular classes held during the school period.

The event, which had the presence of Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, was presented in a press release as “an effort to build the ranks of local volunteer fire departments.”

Two Firefighter I and Firefighter II courses will take place in the summer and one more of each will be offered during the winter break, said Kieran O’Leary, public information officer at Westchester department of public safety. He added that the idea is to seize the moment the volunteers want to do the training, lest they may never come back.

“When the interest is there, when the excitement is there, we want to be able capitalize on it,” O’Leary said.

While the 87-hour Firefighter I course gives the volunteer basic firefighting skills such as fire progress and behavior, laddering and search and rescue, the 27-hour Firefighter II addresses team work and special types of fire.

Sosa, one of 12 attendants of yesterday’s Firefighter II class, said he was not scared of the blaze.

“Not really. It’s all fun for me,” he said.

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