Whiteside County firefighters test skills in training

Whiteside County firefighters test skills in training

Smoke filled a house, and Rock Falls and Sterling firefighters bust in to save the lives of trapped people. It looks real but it’s a training exercise.

(Michael Frachalla, OurQuadCities.com)
(Michael Frachalla, OurQuadCities.com)

The training is a way for firefighters to team up for an emergency exercise and improve their search and rescue skills.

“It just helps us hone our skills that much more,” Rock Falls Fire Department Deputy Chief Kyle Sommers said. “When our firefighters respond to real-life emergencies, they’re going to be better prepared to handle those instances.”

The training took place at an empty house in Rock Falls. Next door to the home, the Whiteside County Health Department looks to expand. The health department bought the home and the land and has big plans for the extra space. In the meantime, the health department teamed up with the Rock Falls Fire Department to let them use the house for the training exercise.

(Michael Frachalla, OurQuadCities.com)
(Michael Frachalla, OurQuadCities.com)

“We will be building just under 2,000 square feet to bring on optometry services,” Whiteside County Health Department and Community Health Clinic CEO Cheryl Lee said, . “We really needed the parking. We were able to work with the city of Rock Falls to rezone. We purchased the home next door, and we were able to rezone it for parking, which was part of the collaboration with the fire department. Hopefully in the late May, early June, we will be able to get that demolished.”

It’s just one way the health department is expanding its reach to community members. Lee says since COVID, the need for services is much higher. “We just brought on oral surgery. Now we will be able to bring on optometry, so it’s really that patient center medical home and that comprehensive care that we can give our community especially those at the highest need who don’t have insurance, or any other place to go,” Lee said. “I think we are getting a little more modern, a little more updated, and it’s one more thing we can do to accommodate our patients.”

(Michael Frachalla, OurQuadCities.com)
(Michael Frachalla, OurQuadCities.com)

The Rock Falls Fire Department is grateful for the opportunity to use the house before it’s demolished. Like the health department, it’s looking to expand it’s training program in the future, especially following a tragedy. “We started doing this after the line-of-duty death of Captain Garrett Ramos from Sterling fire,” Sommers said. “We formed a joint committee where we started discussing what we would like to see from a joint-training facility. “

They hope to get something more permanent. “We are planning that right now,” Sommers said. “It will be located in the Industrial Park in the city of Rock Falls. For right now, until that is constructed, we use these temporary sites and we use them as much as we can before they are slated for demolition.”

The Rock Falls and Sterling Fire Departments are currently working on designs for its joint-training facility. They are hoping the facility is operational in a few years.

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