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Through Smoke and Darkness, Firefighters Race for 'Rapid Intervention'

Wauwatosa and other area fire departments train together to rescue fallen firefighters when seconds mean the difference between survival – and a memorial service.

Crawling across the floor of an enormous warehouse, a team of six firefighters from different departments follows a hose line toward what they hope is their fallen comrade. Simulating a "mayday" call, these firefighters are practicing Rapid Intervention Training, in which they attempt to rescue a fallen firefighter. 

“The RIT training is about saving our own and being on the same page no matter where we need to respond in the county," Wauwatosa Assistant Chief Scott Erke said. "Not only are we sharing equipment and personnel, we are increasing the confidence in our own personnel operating at the scene.

"This training provides the confidence that the responding units from other communities ‘have our back.'"

Along with the Wauwatosa Fire Department, the North Shore, Cudahy, Franklin, Greendale, Greenfield, Hales Corners, Oak Creek, St. Francis, South Milwaukee and West Allis departments – all members of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System – participated in the fire simulation Sept. 13 at a warehouse in Brown Deer 

The program is funded with a $175,964 Assistance to Firefighters Grant, which required the departments to provide matching funds of $43,990 which was divided up between the participating 11 departments. That money paid for the training and the purchasing of standardized rescue equipment the release said. 

The North Shore Fire Department conducted its own RIT Gear trainig in March of 2011 where they practiced many of the same scenarios such as working through "The Box" and responding to mayday calls.

“Occasionally, conditions on the scene change and firefighters find themselves in situations where they become the one needing help," North Shore Fire Assistant Chief Andrew Harris said. "This training helps us learn to recognize the signs that we may be in trouble and call for help early to ensure that we make it home to see our families."

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