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Elmsford Firefighter Cool Despite Training Blaze

VALHALLA, N.Y. - A fierce blaze rises 30 feet and savages the iron walls around it while Stephen Woehrle, of Elmsford, and a group of nearly a dozen firefighters steps closer. They move in inch by inch, ignoring the increasing heat. At about 10 feet from the flames they kneel down, the water jets from their two hoses holding the flames back. One of them then crawls forward, stomach on the ground, and, reaching for a valve, finally stops the propane flow that fed the fire. The exercise is over.

“Good job, good job,” the instructor shouts.

The firefighter training conducted Wednesday at the Department of Emergency Services on Dana Road had all the elements of a real fire. It was especially directed at volunteer college and high school students who can’t attend the regular classes held during the school year.

The event, which was attended by Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, was intended to help add volunteers to local departments.

Two Firefighter I and Firefighter II courses will take place in the summer and one more of each will be offered during the winter break, said Kieran O’Leary, public information officer for thr Westchester Department of Public Safety.

“When the interest is there, when the excitement is there, we want to be able capitalize on it,” O’Leary said.

While the 87-hour Firefighter I course gives volunteers basic skills such as fire progress and behavior, laddering and search and rescue, the 27-hour Firefighter II course addresses team work and special types of fire.

Woehrle, 50, was an exception compared to the mostly young volunteers who attended the Firefighter II class. A captain in one of the two companies of the Elmsford Fire Department, Woehrle said he encourages his men to do the training and wanted to set the example.

“Everybody is running out a burning building and you are running in,” he said. “You gotta know what you are doing.”

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