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Diverse group of firefighters gather for unique training

By CHRISTOPHER FERRELL

Eagle Staff Writer

Krishnan Remesemy crouched near a blazing inferno Wednesday, holding the nozzle of a firehouse and attempting to extinguish a blaze on a replica ship at the Brayton Fire Training Field.

While most people attending the 74th Municipal Fire School came from across Texas, others — including Remesemy — hail from beyond the state’s borders. And many of them openly praise the training classes held on the Texas A&M University campus as the best in America.

Remesemy, who is picking up skills he hopes to pass on in his native Singapore, takes that claim a step further.

“It’s very good,” said Remesemy, one of two Singapore citizens who left their island nation to attend a pair of weeklong training sessions in College Station this summer. “It’s the best in the world. It is respected all over Asia.”

About 2,500 firefighters and guest instructors have made their way to the school, which runs through Friday. It is the largest group to gather for any of the 50 training sessions that take place at Brayton each year.

Remesemy works as a firefighter for a Sembcorpack Management, an industrial company in Singapore. After training with instructors from El Campo — who offered him new techniques to fight back the flames covering the mock ship’s deck — Remesemy said he hopes the new skills will help him be prepared for any situation he encounters in his job.

“There is nowhere where you can learn to fight fires this big there,” he said.

He also attended the Industrial Fire School at Brayton last week.

Another unique aspect of the annual school is that firefighters can learn to tackle any type of inferno, whether it be by sea — as Remesemy battled — land or even those that come out of the air.

Alex Barrientes of Plains, Texas, and Albert Maciel, a firefighter from Dimmit County in South Texas, spent their afternoon fighting a fire on the wreckage of an airplane in another section of the training facility.

This year marks the fourth time both have come to A&M for fire school, and each said they can see why so many of the instructors and longtime students continue to return for decades.

“You come back for the training and instructors,” Barrientes said. “But you also look forward to seeing the same faces every year.”

Scott Rogers, an instructor who spends the rest of the year teaching arson detection classes for the Texas Engineering Extension Service, said the training firefighters get at Brayton is invaluable. He said he doesn’t understand why more don’t take advantage of the opportunity.

Now that state grants are available that cover nearly all of the $300-per-student entry fee, Rogers said he hopes more people from smaller and volunteer fire departments will take advantage of the program.

Rogers, who began working as a firefighter in Dallas in the 1970s, said he continues to see an influx of new blood coming into the business — a positive byproduct of the Sept. 11 attacks.

But even senior citizens take advantage of classes at Brayton. The oldest student at the school this year is 69.

The youngest is 17 — unless you count one firefighter who made it his wish to be a part of the training school.

Seven-year-old Garrett Lyon of Copperas Cove has optic glioma, a tumor in the optic nerves of his brain. The illness has caused Garrett to lose his eyesight.

The Make-a-Wish Foundation sent Lyon to the fire school, where he was able to participate Wednesday in many firefighter activities.

Texas Engineering Extension Service spokeswoman Marilyn Martell said Applebee’s restaurants from across Central Texas chipped in to provide Garrett with his own set of bunker gear, which firefighters wear to protect themselves.

• Christopher Ferrell’s e-mail address is cferrell@theeagle.com.

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