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Issue: 891 Date: 9/20/2007

Killer in the Attic
U. City hosts area firefighter training

        A recent surge in attic fires is a cause for alarm, especially since firefighters are most at risk. In order to combat this deadly anomaly, the University City Fire Department (UCFD) is hosting a three-day training session for area firefighters, September 25-27 at UCFD Firehouse #2: 1045 North and South Road in University City.

        Senior Fire Instructor, John Sachen, conducts the training. He is a forty-year veteran firefighter, now with the University of Missouri-Cape Girardeau Fire and Rescue Training Institute.

        Sachen's course, Killer in the Attic (KITA): teaches how the interconnected concealed spaces, limited window area, multi-faced walls, hidden fire travel paths, high risk collapse zones, more difficult ventilation and extinguishment procedures result in greater risk to firefighters.

        "While home occupants usually escape this kind of fire - especially when they have operating smoke alarms - firefighters are not always so lucky," Sachen said. "With attic fires, firefighters are more likely to be injured, simply because the flames are hidden in concealed spaces. And what they can't see sometimes can become deadly."

        Older homes are especially at risk. But newer homes are not exempt. The danger is prevalentin half-story homes with attics and hidden storage or crawl spaces. Fires that begin or spread to these areas can burn for long periods of time. Firefighters responding to these fires have great difficulty spotting the flames. Built-up pressure in the closed, tight spaces can be literally explosive when a wall is knocked down, or a door opened while they search for fire. This is what causes the deadly danger.

        More than 125 area firefighters are registered for KITA training over the three-day period. Sessions repeat twice daily. Clayton, Olivette, Richmond Heights, Mid-County, Ladue, and the Community Fire Departments have registered for this pro-active class. For more information, contact UCFD Chief Steve Olshwanger: 314.505.8591.

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