Howard County Firefighters Hold Safety Drill

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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Seventy-two firefighters died in the line of duty last year.

Howard County’s fire department doesn’t want to add to those numbers so, as Mike Schuh reports, they put their firefighters to the test Saturday.

Heavy smoke is coming from a rancher in Ellicott City. Rather than burst in to put it out, these firefighters wait for their colleague to really get it going.

“We’re using live fire in what was once a residential house,” said Howard County Fire Department Assistant Chief John Jerome.

They’re burning it down a little bit at a time so 25 firefighters can get nearly true to life training. To show you what it’s like to fight this, we put a little camera on the helmet of Ellicott City firefighter Bill Robinson. Immediately, the smoke nearly killed his vision.

The fire gained strength down a back hallway. It rolled along the top of the ceiling, just like what would happen in real life.

“This is controlled. We know at the end of the day, unless something really, really bad happens, nothing is going to happen to us here,” said Robinson.

But even when the fire’s out, there is so much smoke it’s easy to get disoriented. In these conditions, they need to have confidence in themselves and their partners.

“I ride with these guys a lot and the more things like this that we do together, the more we trust each other and the more we rely on and be sure that we can rely on,” Robinson said.

“You’re a much better team when you’ve worked together and you now have the confidence in each other,” Jerome said.

And, as planned, on this day everyone made it out safe.

This type of training cost a little bit more than doing it at the academy, but because of its real life nature, they feel it’s worth it.

In December, another donated house will be demolished by another training crew from that fire department.

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