Gautier firefighters suit up for emergency response training

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - If you were in Gautier Sunday morning you probably noticed numerous fire trucks at Singing River Mall. No, there was not a fire. Firefighters were at the soon to be demolished structure participating in a simulated emergency drill to improve their fire response skills.

With bright yellow safety gear and emergency tools in hand, Gautier firefighters forced their way through an empty mall to put out a simulated fire.

"We had a scenario involving a fire. What we had today was a fire that was unattainable by the normal means," Lt. Gene Killen said.

The men had to crawl at times to get from one area to the other, and they even knock down a few walls. In a matter of minutes, they were able to put out the blaze. This was a mock training session, but firefighters say the scenario is exactly what they deal with around town.

"Especially like in mobile homes where the conditions are extremely dangerous for us if it is fully involved. We find that we have to go through the wall of the home instead of going through the window or door," Killen said.

In the past year, there have been between five and 10 major structure fires in the city. Fire officials said just like during these drills, every second counts.

"When we are in a fully involved house fire, six to eight inches in front of you maybe all you are able to see, and that is when you are on the floor. The heat is extreme, the sounds are extreme, so that is why we train together and anticipate each other's actions," Killen said.

"It does take the wind out of you, but you have to be ready to go," firefighter Dan Kauppi said.

All this training can be physically demanding at times, but these firefighters said it is worth it because it helps save lives in the future.

"That is exactly right. Life comes first and property comes next. We have to save lives and that is our job," said Kauppi.

Killen said the firefighters do mental and physical training during the week as well as take advantage of online computer classes.

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