LEWISBORO, N.Y. -- Every week the members of the South Salem Fire Department gather at the firehouse to check equipment, hone their skills and learn new techniques.
They may practice flushing fire hydrants, conducting boat rescues or performing emergency bailouts.
According to First Assistant Chief Michael Lynch, learning bailout techniques became compulsory for firefighters in New York state after two firefighters died and four others were badly injured after being forced to jump 50 feet from the fourth floor of a burning building in the Bronx in 2005.
“If you can't get out of a building the way you got in and no one is coming to help you, you have to save yourself," he explained.
The technique involves wearing a harness with a rope attached.
If a firefighter gets trapped and needs to escape through a window, he can attach himself to a pulley and slide to safety.
This isn’t a simple task, since firefighters are already encumbered by the equipment they carry and layers of protective clothing.
Three practice bailouts a year are required to maintain certification.
"You do years of training for just a couple of minutes," said South Salem Frefighter John Casavant as he took his turn at a recent drill.
But those might be the most important minutes of your life, he said.
"We're so well trained that when I'm out there fighting a fire my brain is screaming, 'You're in a fire,' but my body is doing what it was trained to do. It saves my life," Casavant said.
"People are always happy to see us," said Lynch. "Whether it's a bad accident or a smoke alarm by accident, people are thankful. In a town where so much is changing, the fire department is the one thing that stays the same. It’s the fabric that holds the town together.”
The Fire Department will give the public an inside peek at its facility during its 10th annual Open House from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15.
There will be live fire safety demonstrations, child ID programs, car seat installations, blood pressure screenings, K-9 teams, games and refreshments.
The South Salem Fire Department is at 1190 Route 35. Its non-emergency number is (914)-763-3706.
The Vista Fire Department is also holding an Open House and Recruitment Day Saturday. That event will begin with a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The breakfast is $8 for adults and $4 for children 8 and under.
Members of the community can learn how to become a volunteer firefighter, EMT, ambulance or fire truck driver.
According to its website, the benefits of joining include tax breaks for homeowners, free gym membership and a retirement package.
The day will feature a car fire/extrication and fire extinguisher demonstrations, fire truck rides, blood pressure checks and refreshments.
The Vista Open House runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The fire station is at 377 Smith Ridge Road.
For more information, call the Vista Fire Department’s non-emergency number (914)-533-2727.