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North Salem Graduates Two More Firefighters

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Wednesday’s graduating class of 104 men and women from the Firefighter Training Program in Valhalla included two local residents, Frederick Gambke and Bruce Buchholtz of the Croton Falls Fire Department .

Bruce Buchholtz, newly elected to the North Salem Town Council, completed the 87-hour Firefighter 1 course, which included “scene support, interior firefighting, hazardous materials and incident command.”

“We got about 10 new people this year,” said Fire Captain Shawn Hanaburgh, who is in charge of new membership. Some of the volunteers will not be firefighting. Those who will must first pass a physical and background check and are committed to taking the course within a year. Hanaburgh joined the department at the age of 16. "Once you join, it's a lifetime membership," he said.

One of the tricky exercises, said Buchholtz was “window bailing. You crawl out a third story window head first onto a ladder. When you get down a few rungs you pivot. Then you’re foot first. You do this with oxygen. You do it for example when you have a ‘rollover’ inside and you have to dive out the window.” A rollover is caused by gases which rise to the ceiling and break into flames.

Buchholtz said he found hose operation the most challenging. “You’ve got to maintain a three-inch hose with a lot of pressure. You have to learn how to control it with a four-man team. It’s like holding down a Brahman bull. Then you keep it moving in a circle to sweep the fire. It’s the hardest part of the training.”

Various courses are offered at the Valhalla training center. “It’s very rigorous.You’re learning from department chiefs from all over. It’s one of the best in the nation,” Buchholtz said.

Although he had not undergone a training course until recently, Buchholtz has been a volunteer with the Croton Falls department for some time. “During Irene I covered 36 calls, 20 during the October storm.”

Why does he do it? “In 1964 when I lived in Purdys the Croton Falls Fire Department came to my house on Washington’s birthday to put out a fire. They saved my house.”

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