BY BARRY WARNER
Our Unsung Hero this week is volunteer James Petriello, who has served the Nyack Fire Department for 34 years as captain, chief, battalion chief, president and training officer.
“As chief, I was responsible for the lives and property of 13,000 residents who were living in the Nyack Fire District. For example, when there was a house fire, I took over as the incident commander. I would size-up the situation, walk around the building and see what we were up against and advise County Control of the situation,” Petriello told the Rockland County Times. “Nyack has eight different fire departments including hose, ladder and rescue companies. A primary search was done to check for occupants and determine where the fire was. I would decide to allocate resources and the placement of the apparatus in the correct spots. I checked the water sources for the hose companies and directed the ladder companies to ventilate the roof. Overhaul means opening walls, ceilings and partitions to check for fire extension.”
“Salvage is the protection of building and their contents from unnecessary damage due to water, smoke and heat,” Petriello continued. “Other responders included Orange and Rockland Utilities to turn off the gas, EMS to treat victims and a fire inspector to determine the cause of the fire.” In 2012, there was a natural gas fire, so there was a call to surrounding fire companies for Mutual Aid. This was in June and the temperature was 102 degrees. It took four hours for O&R to turn off the gas. “The mission is to protect buildings from going up in flames,” said Petriello.
“Our marine unit covered the Hudson River for boat fires, lost kayakers and boats taking on water. As the Training Officer, I work with the firefighters at the Fire Training Center in Pomona, where we practice ‘mask confidence’,” Petriello continued. “This drill objective is to put the firefighters through a course in full gear and expose them to entanglement hazards, confined spaces and a full-room search in blackout conditions. A converted trailer is used to simulate a flashover, which is a stage of a fire when the contents of a room are heated to their ignition temperatures and flames break out over the entire area simultaneously. The firefighters are instructed to get down on the floor and the hose handlers are told to direct the water at the ceiling to bring down the temperature. We need firefighters who can perform a variety of tasks at a moment’s notice, without hesitation and with minimal assistance.”
The training officer plays an integral part in the success and safety of everyone in the department. Continuing education is of the utmost importance to today’s responders and the training officer is responsible in making sure that all members know the responsibilities that each of them play on the emergency scene. Training on the tasks, such as personal protective equipment usage (PPE), donning the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and tool maintenance need to be addressed.
For firefighters to be good at their jobs, they must have the knowledge, skills and abilities that are applicable to each of their job responsibilities. Training or educating is the development activity whereby firefighters acquire the necessary knowledge and skills for a particular firefighter task. This could be a classroom or online learning session about ladders, followed by the opportunity to practice the newly learned skills to a proficient level.
Drilling is a development activity that requires the firefighter to take previously learned knowledge and skills and develop mastery to apply them. They include placing a ladder against a building, then climbing up to the roof and down or securing an axe to a rope and hoisting it up and down with confidence.
“My father has been a member of the Nyack Fire Department since 1930 and my uncles and cousins have been firefighters for the Nyack Fire District so I grew up in the firehouse starting as a 4-year-old and played on the fire trucks,” James Petriello concluded. “It’s a great feeling to give back to my community and help neighbors, friends and strangers. I really have enjoyed being a firefighter.”