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Local Firefighters Examine South Carolina Tragedy

By: Kristen Ross Email
By: Kristen Ross Email

As the nation mourns the loss of the nine firefighters who perished in Monday's blaze at a South Carolina furniture store, local fire departments are sitting down to talk safety.

"The fire service is a brotherhood, and we lost brothers and everyone is grieving this week, and we're also looking for ways to prevent this in the future," said Chief Mike Donoho of the Bryan Fire Department.

The loss of nine firefighters Monday evening came during the National Firefighter and EMS Stand Down Week. The week typically devoted to safety now has taken on an even deeper meaning for local firefighters.

"The fire we saw in South Carolina is a major fire. It's one that no fire department, no community hopes would ever happen in their community," said Chief R.B. Alley of the College Station Fire Department. "We know that the reality is fires do occur like that, so we've just got to be prepared."

Throughout the week, Bryan and College Station's fire departments have come together for safety briefs.

This is not the first time local firefighters have learned from tragedy. In April, after a deadly office fire almost took the life of a Houston fire captain, Bryan fire rescuers performed simulated "mayday rescues" to prepare them to save the life of one of their own.

Now, once again, local firefighters are learning from tragedy.

"We're reviewing some of the raw video footage from South Carolina," said Donoho. "It's not our idea to judge the incident, but we can talk about the incident itself. We can talk about the type of structure that was involved and heavy amounts of fire, and the dangers associated with being inside a building like that."

Firefighters watching the footage of the fire were reminded how dangerous their job can be each time they step into a burning building.

"Something like that really brings out the importance of awareness in our job," Bryan Fire Department Lt. J.E. Davis said.

Fellow firefighter Lt. Bobby Roger of the College Station Fire Department said, "We need to pay attention. We need to look for the small things, and we need to pay close detail to each issue we have to deal with everyday."

Firefighters from all over the world come to train in the Brazos Valley, and that's why this tragedy really hits close to home.

"We've had folks that work here, that work at the fire training school on their days off, and last year we had over 20 Charleston, South Carolina firefighters that were here for training," Donoho said.


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