BY BARRY WARNER
Our Unsung Hero column this week features Annemarie Basile, volunteer second assistant chief of Hillburn Fire Dept. She is currently the highest-ranking female firefighter in the county.
“In the event of a house fire in Hillburn, as the Incident Commander on the scene, I would take the time necessary to conduct a proper size-up of the situation, so that the information relayed to dispatch is accurate, organized and meaningful. I would establish a command post in a location where I can observe all operations, but not close enough to impede the work being performed,” Basile told the Rockland County Times. “Our primary mission is to protect lives, both firefighter and civilian. My first responsibility is to safeguard the safety of the personnel under my supervision and take all reasonable risks in protecting the lives of the public. A goal of incident stabilization is to minimize the amount of damage or spread of the fire. Fire behavior and the type of construction are key issues that affect the ability to stabilize an incident.”
“Property conservation is the salvage and overhaul part of firefighting that takes place after the flames are extinguished and we’re into cleaning up and checking for hot spots. We meet once a week at the firehouse or at the Fire Training Center in Pomona to practice hose drills, search drills, pump-ops drills, ventilation drills and Emergency Vehicle Operator training. Our proximity to the New York Thruway requires us to have auto rescue lift airbag drills, auto extrication drills, motor vehicle fire drills and brush fire drills,” Basile continued.
With ventilation, a hole is made in the roof of a burning building so that the smoke and gases escape, allowing the heat and smoke to rise. Therefore, it makes it much easier for the firefighters in the building to see.
Teamwork is needed between the hose and ventilation crews plus the search and rescue teams for hose line advancement. The role of the nozzle man is important for the extinguishment of the fire. To conduct the drill, a pumper, water source and attack lines are required. Pumping the correct pressure for the chosen nozzle after a safe arrival and proper position of the apparatus is important. The first task is to pump the correct pressure to deliver the flow of water that the nozzle was designed for.
The search drill can be conducted by laying out a maze, using tables on their sides, simulating a victim, and using firefighters in full turnout gear, including self-contained breathing units and blacking out their “masks of confidence.” This is a “touch and feel drill” that attempts to maintain their orientation in a smoked filled room. The Firefighter Assist and Search Team (FAST), also known as a rapid intervention team of two or more fighters, is dedicated solely to the search of other firefighters in distress.
Toxic gases and other hazardous substances along with flying debris and explosions combine to produce serious dangers in motor vehicle fires. Also, there are alternative fuel vehicles in use, which includes those powered by batteries, fuel cells, hydrogen, natural gas or propane. The term “Jaws of Life’ refers to several types of piston rod hydraulic tools known as spreaders, cutters and rams, which are used to pry open vehicles involved in accidents where a victim may be trapped. Hydraulic spreaders are primarily used for compressed car frames and other damaged and collapsing structures. Like a pair of reversed scissors, spreaders start in a closed position and apply outward force, moving apart steel and fiberglass frames with ease, and giving victims the space to be removed from a hazard. Using immense hydraulic pressure, cutters pierce through metals to remove damaged and dangerous obstructions, allowing openings for firefighters to extricate victims. Rams are used to dislodge parts of a wreckage, like a steering column or a dashboard. A sturdy metal alloy rod is pressed forward to punch or ram apart sections of an accident that may be pinning victims down and preventing their extrication.
Rescue lift air bags provide responders with a versatile tool to use in rescue situations in which other means of lifting, jacking or spreading are unavailable or unconventional for the setting. Proper knowledge of the use of rescue lift air bags and their potential increases a firefighter’s readiness and preparedness for any emergency.
There are three conditions that need to be present in order for a brushfire to burn, which firefighters refer to as the fire triangle: fuel, oxygen and a heat source. Fuel is any flammable material surrounding a fire including trees, grasses and brush. The greater an area’s fuel load, the more intense the fire. Air supplies the oxygen a fire needs to burn. Heat sources help spark the brushfire and bring fuel to temperatures hot enough to ignite, such as lightning or cigarettes or a burning campfire. Traditional methods of fighting brushfires include water dousing and spraying fire retardants to extinguish brushfires.
“I love helping people and I volunteer to make a difference in this community,” Basile said. “Members of my family have served as firefighters in the FDNY for many years.”
“Fire stations welcome their neighbors, residents and children during open houses to experience what it means to be volunteer firefighters,” Basille concluded. “These volunteers selflessly donate their time and safety to protect our local Hillburn community. In addition, they save Rockland County a great deal of money that would otherwise go to paid personnel. On Hillburn Day, our firefighters gave an extrication demonstration on a donated car to the village residents. During Fire Prevention Week, we work with the Ladies’ Auxiliary to give out smoke alarms.”
For additional information about volunteering for the Hillburn Fire Department, call 845-357-9260.