Thanks to homeowner and firefighter Mark Bower, over 30 Tamaqua firefighters were given the opportunity to train in a live smoke-filled home this week.

The property at 215 West Broad Street, which was purchased by Bower to extend his property, was scheduled to be razed. Bower, who is also the fire chief of the South Ward Fire Company, realized his fellow firefighters could train at the dilapidated property before its demolition.

Local firemen from the American Hose Company, Rescue Squad and South Ward fire companies put Bower's offer to good use, spending Tuesday evening in a 4-phase rescue RIT (Rapid Internvention Team) training exercise.

Firefighters utilized a professional fog machine to fill the entire house with thick fog, which resembles smoke. The fog was so thick, firefighters, using oxygen masks and full gear, had to utilize all their skills to navigate through the three-story home. Although the fog is breathable, it still offered firefighters a real-life training environment similar to the visual conditions of a real house fire.

Real life RIT training is very important, allowing firefighters to be able to recognize dangerous building conditions or hazards at a structure fire.

Matt Bynon, captain, Tamaqua Rescue Squad, said the simulated training exercise was vital since he assists fellow Tamaqua Rescue Squad member Crystal York with oxygen tank training.

Firefighters pointed out that this home, with its tight stairways, was similar in construction to many other homes around our region

Training organizers Kevin Breiner, South Ward Fire Company, and Chris Hadesty, American Hose Company, both stressed the importance of live training.

"We can only get better when we train in environments like this," said Breiner. "Opportunities like this are invaluable to all firefighters."