Abilene firefighters storm into new training facility as weather warms

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Local firefighters have been hard at work during recent wildfires across the Big Country, but the work doesn’t stop once the flames are brought under control.

“We have a lot here in our training division,” said Capt. Ben Cotton of the Abilene Fire Department (AFD). “We also get out of cars and spend a lot of time doing different extrication techniques and tactics.”

Abilene firefighters learn many different things at their training center, including thermal safety.

“Where we are this year and the extreme heat and temperatures that we have is something that we really have to be aware of,” said captain Cotton.

According to Cotton, 52 deaths occurred last year across the country, where children were locked in hot cars.

Information provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

“I think we have parents who start saying, ‘oh, I’m going to run into the store real quick,’ and at this time of year we can’t do that anymore,” Captain Cotton said.

According to Captain Cotton, AFD’s aim is to arrive at the scene of a distress report within four minutes. When a child is in danger, every minute counts.

In 10 minutes, a car can heat up to 20 degrees, depending on this sheet from the Texas State Department of Health Services.

On a day like Tuesday, when there is a predicted high temperature of 102° in Abilene, leaving a child in the car for 10 minutes will heat that car to over 120°.

Former Abilene firefighter Pete Beretta detailed the quick process to saving a child from vehicular heat stroke.

“Any fire department that goes into a heat-stress-type emergency where a baby is involved, is pretty much going to gain access after checking the locks,” Beretta advised. “They can pretty much get to it through the window.”

Firefighters have to learn extrication techniques, like breaking a car window, but ultimately hope they never have to use them.

“We use those stats and that’s how we start to build our knowledge base of what we can do,” added captain Cotton.

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