Firefighters train with hot air balloons, learn about safety

PLAINVILLE, Conn. (WTNH)– On Monday evening, members of the Plainville Fire Department assembled behind the station for a unique training opportunity where they got to learn about hot air balloon safety.

Later this month, the department will host its 32nd annual hot air balloon festival. Organizers expect 20 to 30 hot air balloons to be there for the entertainment of tens of thousands of people. What was ever-present on the minds of those participating in the exercise was a recent tragedy in Texas that left 16 people dead.

“That was just horrific, and we’d like to avoid that at all costs,” said fire chief Kevin Toner.

Chief Toner thinks hands-on experience helps his crew learn better.

“We’re hoping to familiarize ourselves with where the shutoffs are in the balloons, all the safety devices, how can we how can we eliminate a hazard very quickly and make a rescue if needed,” said Chief Toner.

Those doing most of the teaching were hot air balloon pilots themselves, who will be taking part in the festival.

“We’re very aware of what can be and we’re very mindful and very respectful of power lines,” said hot air balloon pilot Mark Sand.

The balloons used can carry anywhere between 25 to 45 gallons of propane in them. The gas is used as fuel and burns around 1,000 degrees. Each one of the hot air balloons presented is set up differently, a reminder of why it’s important that not just balloonists understand how they work.

“When you pre-plan your ready if something happens,” said Jim Lenois, Safety Officer with the Plainville Fire Department.

The Plainville Hot Air Balloon Festival will start August 26th and run through the weekend.

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