Vilonia Fire Chief Keith Hillman said the department’s specialized training and rescue trailer was put to use a few weeks ago when a Vilonia girl went missing.
“Five of us had gone through a wide-area search class earlier in the week,” Hillman said. “That happened on Sunday, and we got to use our training that we had just received.”
The rescue trailer, which had just finished getting equipped, was taken out, he said.
“On that trailer, we have our vests, flashlights and stuff we used that night,” Hillman said. The girl was found at home, unharmed, a few hours later.
“We’re doing more specialized training — confined space, trench, high angle, low angle — more than just the routine firefighting stuff,” Hillman said.
He said eight of the 30 firefighters have received training in “almost everything.” The remainder of the firefighters will go through classes in March and June, he said.
He said the emphasis on specialized training came after Vilonia’s 2008 tornado.
“We realized we needed some better equipment if it ever happened again,” he said, and to have more skills. “We needed the chain saws and search-and-rescue knowledge. It’s one of those things you live and you learn.”
Assistant Fire Chief K.C. Williams said the rescue team “is outfitted to do the immediate search and rescue in the event we have a flood, tornado, something like that,” he said. “If we have a call-out, [the trailer] goes to where the problem is.”
That could be in Vilonia or to help a neighboring community, Williams said.
“We’ve been outfitting it, doing all of our training — search-and-rescue training — and compiling equipment to handle the disaster and compiling all the necessary documentation you have to do to legally do one of these rescues,” he said.
Documents have been compiled in sort of an “in-case-of-emergency-break-this-open” box, Williams said, which includes “who to contact, what to do and in what order to do it.”
He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency requires certain forms to be filled out in a specific order for services.
Hillman said one of the firefighters has metal-working talents, and he added shelves to the trailer.
“Everything in there is organized like crazy,” Hillman said.
The chief said that as much as they hope they don’t have to use the rescue trailer again, “We’re ready.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.