An employee at the Expera Paper Mill in Rhinelander crawls through the small opening barely large enough to fit one person and enters one of the massive boilers at the mill for routine maintenance.
But it turns out to be anything but routine as due to the unequal footing of tons of ash and debris, his foot slips and he breaks his leg.
Those on the outside are unable to reach the man in the dusty, poorly ventilated space so the call goes out for help. The Mill’s Rapid Response Team is on the scene and the Rhinelander Fire Department is on the way. In minutes, the man is being looked after by emergency personnel and not long after the call went out, he is in a Rhinelander Fire Department transport on his way to the hospital.
And all along, Mark England is standing by making notes, watching the whole thing unfold.
That was the scenario for a recent joint training between Expera, the Rhinelander Fire Department and Nicolet College, where England works as a safety and health specialist and conducts these types of trainings around the college’s district.
“We do these trainings all over the northern part of the state,” England said. “We go everywhere in the Nicolet College district.”
England said there is more involved than just the hands on experience to these training runs.
“What we typically do is take a look at the regulations, do a refresher course and a powerpoint,” he said. “It is about 16 hours of training and classroom time.”
While the training may be lengthy, to be able to rely on the college to aid in training is something valuable to Rhinelaner Fire Chief Terry Williams.
“It’s a great partnership to have,” Williams said. “They help us out tremendously. “Without their help we could not make our training budget stretch as far as we do.”
And that budget is under a lot of pressure as a fire department like Rhinelander’s has to undergo a lot of training during the course of the year.
“We have guys doing something every month,” Williams said. “We try to do the training on shift if possible. But some guys have to go to training on their own and then come back and teach the rest of us.”
Williams said they have five certified instructors on staff and five certified EMT instructors.
But it is trainings like the one recently at Expera where the partnership with Nicolet comes into play and Williams said having different eyes on a situation helps the learning process.
“There are always different ways to do things,” he said. “Hopefully they get easier over time. We definitely want to keep updating our skills.”
For England and the college, working with a professional fire fighting crew in Rhinelander helps their program as well.
“We are always learning new things when we go through a training,” England said. “I am relatively new to this position to listen to these guys with so much experience and to listen to what they are seeing as they go through the training is valuable.”