Texas Firefighters Put To Test At Tyler Fire School

If you saw the smoke and flames outside Mike Carter field Saturday, you might have been concerned.

No worries, there were plenty of fire fighters on hand.

The Ellis Training Center was the site, as a hundred and fifty fire fighters from all over Texas came together to train.

"We're doing probably as much hands-on at this class as we've done the last ten years combined," Tyler Fire Chief David Schlottach explained.

This weekend, the new training center allows firefighters from all over the state to get some hands on experience. It's a chance to see some things they're supposed to be ready for every day.

"First time I went to a fire call," Coffee City volunteer fire fighter Billy Beall said, "I remember it being an experience to actually see a working fire in a house."

"You can listen in the classroom all day long," says Lupe Garza, a volunteer from Mabank. "But hands-on's where it's at. That's where you learn it. You have to do it to learn it. Everybody can talk about it, but you have to learn it and do it to know what it's all about."

Fire departments from as far away as College Station and Richardson sent firefighters to this week's course. This is the twenty-third event, a joint effort by the Tyler and Smith County Fire Departments. Texas A & M underwrites the event, providing credit for firefighters who take the course.

The drills they go through vary, from the sublime, such as rolling hoses, to the spectacular. They set real fires, and venture through real smoke, training for pretty much anything they might come across.

"You never know what the next call's gonna be," Garza says. "It could be life threatening, it could be nothing."

Even more amazing, most of these people are volunteers, working because they know everything they learn could one day save a life.

"You learn something every day," Garza says, "They're always coming out with new techniques. Every day you learn something new."

So they spend this weekend practicing, in hopes of making the real emergencies run smoother.

Reid Kerr (rkerr@kltv.com) reporting.