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New ferry crews train to fight emergencies on the water

Washington State Ferry crews train to put out fires at a training center in North Bend, Wash. (Photo: KOMO News)

NORTH BEND, Wash. - A brand new fleet crew with Washington State Ferries are learning how to fight fires this week. For two days, 70 employees have been participating in fire training as part of two week training program preparing crew for emergencies on the water.

"We do firefighting, we do in-water rescue and we do first aid," said Washington State Ferries Director Amy Scarton. "That's because a lot of things happen on our boats and we want our folks to be able to put out the fire or birth the baby."

This year's class is double the size of the 2016 class because there's a greater need for workers, with an aging workforce throughout the fleet.

"I feel very equipped and very comfortable," said Dodge Schaeffer, who is new ferry employee and participating in the training program.

On Thursday, new fleet crew members learned how to prevent and stop fires before they become dangerous. The program began in the classroom, then participants put their new skills to the test with field drills.

"If there is an incident onboard their vessel, they need to know how to react," said Shane Hughes, who is the deputy state fire marshal at the Washington State Patrol Fire Training Academy in North Bend.

Fires do happen on board vessel, WSF officials said.

"Yes, I've seen many fires," said Captain Mike Schilling.

Captain Schilling has been working for the ferry system for 42 years and says he's experienced at least a dozen fires on state ferries.

"As a captain, it's my job to make sure the vessel is safe for the crew and the passengers," said Schilling. "I worry a lot about fires - I've seen some really scary ones that fortunately our crews have been able to get out."

That's why new employees are required to participate in fire training. On Thursday, new crew members learned how to use fire safety equipment, hoses and extinguish fast-moving fires.

The 70 new crew members will graduate from the training program on Tuesday and be ready for work out our state ferries.

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