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167th firefighters train to save lives, rescue local man

Firefighters from the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, W. Va., respond to a simulated aircraft fire as part of their Federal Aviation Administration Part 139 Live Fire Training, Oct. 14, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Edward Michon)

Firefighters from the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, W. Va., respond to a simulated aircraft fire as part of their Federal Aviation Administration Part 139 Live Fire Training, Oct. 14, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Edward Michon)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Rigorous training, every shift, often blindfolded.

That’s how 167th firefighters prepared to respond to a structure fire, pulling an unconscious man from a second story bedroom to medics on the ground below, saving him from imminent death.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Coffman and Senior Airman Justin Ashby shrug off the recent event because it’s part of the job, it’s what they train to do.

“Everyone on the piece that day did exactly what they were expected to do.” Ashby said.

The 167th’s five-man crew was the third unit to arrive on the scene that day. Everyone instinctively went to work, Coffman explained. Two of them joined firefighters from the other responding units to attack the fire. Coffman and Ashby entered the second story of the home to look for its occupant.

In an upstairs bedroom they met Tommy Pressly, the fire chief for the South Berkeley County Volunteer Fire Department, who had just found a man, unconscious, in a smoke-filled bedroom. Together, Pressly, Ashby and Coffman carried the man out to safety.

“It helps because we all volunteer in the county,” said Coffman, who volunteers with Pressly at the South Berkeley County Volunteer Fire Department. “We all work together out there and we just know our job.”

But it takes a lot of work to know the job.

“We train like there ain’t no tomorrow to make sure we have our stuff down,” Coffman said.

The 167th firefighters, who respond to approximately 300 calls a year, spend a lot of time honing their skills, repeating basic techniques, donning masks and other gear and navigating spaces with limited visibility.

“We do a lot of stuff blindfolded, for dexterity,” Ashby said. “We train on how to look for people, how to get them out, what to do if your mask fails, how to open doors, how to force doors, drag hose, how to work your pack, turn it on, turn it off, put it back together, untangle it, those types of things.”

Many may view their efforts as heroic, but for Coffman and Ashby it was just another day on the job.

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