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Two-day workshop held at Lee Broadbent Training Center during 2018 Firemanship Conference

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Aaron Fields, a firefighter for the city of Seattle, teaches a hands-on course, called Nozzle Forward, to hundreds of firefighters Friday, March 2. The course is designed to show fire crews techniques for laying fire hose to maximize efficiency. Hundreds of firefighting professionals visited the Lee Broadbent Training Center in St. Helens last week during a two-day workshop that capped an annual training program called the Firemanship Conference.

The weeklong conference is hosted by an association of professional firefighters based in the Pacific Northwest, called Brothers in Battle, and the nonprofit group, the First Whip F.O.O.L.S, or First Whip Fraternal Order of Leatherheads Society.

The annual conference allows firefighters to engage in professional development opportunities and training. Hundreds of firefighters from around the country take part in the conferences.

This year, one of the workshops, called Nozzle Forward, was taught in St. Helens. The course teaches firefighters techniques about laying fire hose around corners or tight spots before the water is turned on to make the flow more efficient and effective. The training course was led by Aaron Fields, a Seattle firefighter who helped developed the Nozzle Forward training program.

Crews spent time Thursday and Friday, March 1 and 2, at the training center in St. Helens practicing skills they learned in the workshop.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - A group of firefighters taking part in the conference help set up a training course at the Lee Broadbent Training Center in St. Helens. Many of the Columbia River Fire and Rescue firefighters who helped at the conference volunteered their time to do so. Columbia River Fire and Rescue Lt. Greg LeDoux, who is also the president of the First Whip F.O.O.L.S., said programs like this are valuable for allowing firefighters to learn techniques in an uninterrupted setting.

"It's really busy when we're at work and it's really hard to spend hours on specific disciplines," LeDoux explained, adding that conferences allow firefighters to take courses in specialized areas, like removing people from vehicles or using water cannons.

Matt Chandler, a CRFR firefighter-paramedic and the training trustee for the First Whip F.O.O.L.S., emphasized the importance of continuing to take courses and to continue learning as a professional.

"I think it's important to learn new skills and bounce your ideas off fellow firefighters," Chandler said. "Like any profession, you got to keep learning and keep growing to get better and better."

The firemanship conference program also serves as a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization called Sons of the Flag, which was founded by a military veteran, to support burn victims. Over the past three years, net proceeds from the conference have been donated to the nonprofit and have totaled nearly $85,000.

The total dollar amount raised in 2018 has yet to be calculated.

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