Union demands answers after firefighter trainee stricken

Union demands answers after firefighter trainee stricken
Watertown fire truck (Source: WWNY)

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The union which represents professional firefighters in New York state says it has “serious concerns” about an incident which left a firefighter trainee from Watertown in serious condition in a Pennsylvania hospital.

The firefighter - who has not been publicly identified - suffered a “medical emergency during a training exercise,” according to Watertown fire chief Matthew Timerman.

The firefighter trainee was one of two trainees from the Watertown fire department participating in an 11 week training course at the State Academy of Fire Science Training in Montour Falls, near Watkins Glen.

The medical emergency occurred during a “physical skills drill,” according to a press release from the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

Watertown city manager Ken Mix said the drill involved the use of breathing apparatus.

In a note to union members Thursday afternoon, the New York State Professional Firefighters Association called what happened “a life-threatening and disturbing series of events that occurred during a recruit training session” and that “During a session involving some of our newest members, one became unresponsive and at this moment is receiving advanced medical care, after being airlifted from a local hospital to the Guthrie Robert Parker Hospital, a Grade II Trauma Center located in Sayer, Pennsylvania.”

“There are serious concerns about circumstances and reactions surrounding these events. We have not yet had the opportunity to speak to the members of the class witnessing the session,” according to the statement.

“In addition, we are demanding a comprehensive report and will pose questions to the officials who oversee the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control regarding these events and the actions of the personnel supervising the training.”

State police are investigating the incident.

“We ask the public to keep our firefighter, his family, and our department in your thoughts and prayers,” Timerman wrote in his statement.

“We pray for our brother’s recovery, strength for his family and the skills of the medical team providing care,” the union said in its statement.

The Watertown trainees were two of 39 firefighters who began training in early February, according to a press release from Governor Cuomo’s office dated February 12.

The press release describes the training as an “11 week rigorous training program” with participation from firefighters from 16 departments.

“During the 11 week program, recruits participate in more than 500 hours of training in both classroom and practical settings.

“Classes focus on areas such as emergency vehicle and pump operations, flammable gas firefighting, basic rescue technician skills and foundational firefighting training and operations.”

“Recruits also participate in daily physical fitness training,” according to the release.

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