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Thanking the past, training the future

Outgoing chiefs honored before crews get an education

A day dedicated to training area firefighters started with a moment to honor some of the people who were instrumental in founding the Midwest Fire Training Academy in Morris.

Before a group of more than 100 firefighters and fire department officials had the chance to dive into the Chief Shabbona Fire Association's 12th annual Pow Wow Fire School Sunday, Plainfield Fire Protection District Deputy Chief Dave Riddle made remarks in honor of two retiring chiefs — Morris Fire and Ambulance Protection District's Chief Bob Coleman and Coal City Fire Protection District Chief Harold Holsinger. 

"Without these two men and their contributions, a lot of this would not have been possible," Riddle said. "These guys have committed heart and soul to the fire service in their careers."

He added that Coleman and Holsinger have made a lasting impact far beyond their immediate departments throughout their long careers — Coleman started with his department in 1960, and Holsinger in 1972. 

"If you just think about how many people have been touched by the work and dedication of Harold and Bob, and then think about the lives they've touched and the lives that those lives have touched ... it's like throwing a rock into the ocean, where those ripples continue and unfold and cascade from shore to shore."

Melissa Dunning, secretary/treasurer for the association, presented the chiefs with T-shirts in department colors and antique fire extinguishers inscribed with words of appreciation for their service.

After the presentation, the chiefs each took a moment to respond.

"I've seen a lot of changes over the years," Coleman told the crowd. "I did say that we wouldn't have any ambulance in the Morris fire station. I've changed over the years because people like you have supported me and changed me, and I look out today and see the crowd and the young people, and all I can say is you're going in the right direction."

Holsinger also thanked the group for the sentiment, but said it's not all about him, but it's the collective efforts of the team.

"It's people like Charlie (Boyd, fire school chairman), the association that make it happen, it's not me," he said, of bringing the Pow Wow together. "We can give a little guiding hand, let people do things that they need to do, it's the people that make the fire service, it's not the chiefs. It's the people out there doing the work."

More than 100 firefighters from departments throughout Chicagoland attended fire school training. Following the morning ceremony, firefighters split up into groups focusing on topics including vehicle extrication, forcible entry, industrial firefighting and basic firefighting skills. 

The training included classroom and hands-on components. Fire school participants were able to take part in real-life vehicle extrication scenarios, as well as see fire behavior.

Holsinger said the fire school brings in firefighters of all skill levels and provides low-cost training.

"This fire school is fantastic — it introduces some of the younger folks to the fire service," he said. "In some instances, there'll be some people here who don't have any fire experiences at all, going through the basic firemanship class."

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