SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- About 50 members of the Scotch Plains Fire Department and Rescue Squad conducted joint drills on Monday, March 30, at the Northside Fire Station to train EMTs and newer members of the fire department in automobile extrications.

Previous trainings focused on "packaging" patients after car accidents and dealing with spinal cord injuries and on extrication from automobiles. Monday's training brought it all together in a controlled environment.
"We do these trainings together about twice a year," said Tony Robertiello of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad. "It builds camaraderie."
 
“The individuals on both sides (Rescue Squad and Fire Department) can now put a name to a face," said Scotch Plains Battalion Chief John Lestarchick, who has worked with the SPFD for 30 years. "When you are on a scene and working together you want the emergency workers to have a rapport."
 

Lestarchick, who will be honored as Scotch Plains' Volunteer of the Year at the Mayor's Gala on May 1st, said the fire department conducts trainings for its members every Monday night. During cold weather, the focus is on CPR, hazmat awareness and other indoor training. In the spring and summer, they conduct trainings outside, including an upcoming "live burn" exercise at the Union Counthy Fire Academy in Linden on May 18.
 
The Scotch Plains Fire Department answers just under 600 calls on an annual basis, including about 50 responses each year to blazes to other towns.  With the exception of Fire Chief Jonathan Ellis, the department is comprised of all volunteers. 
 
"The initial commitment is huge because of the time involved at start up. Usually it's younger people who get inolved," Listarchick explained. "The academy started in January for three nights a week and weekends, and the course is about five months. It's a significant commitment of time, so when someone shows interest in volunteering, we pursue it."
 
In order to be able to respond to a blaze, a volunteer firefighter is required to undergo two courses. Firefighter II includes “hot zone” instruction with "live burns" and the hands-in teaching of firefighting tactics.