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It takes a village to teach critical firefighting skill

BOARDMAN — When it came time to go after a Boy Scout Eagle award, Scout Aidan Wittman came up with burning buildings.

Not one, but three buildings on fire — awaiting the right person to handle a pressurized water hose and put the fires out.

The burning buildings actually are props used during open houses to allow guests to experience what fighting a fire is like. The idea of adding the structures came when the Boardman High School senior approached the Boardman Fire Department about any projects he could use to earn his Eagle award.

Wittman, son of Don Wittman and Sherri Kane, and a member of Troop 46 out of the Boardman United Methodist Church, agreed to build additional structures to be added to the department’s “Hose House” water props.

The department had only one prop that represented a two-story building with flames in the windows. During open houses, guests were able to use the fire hose to see what it would be like to be a firefighter. The hoses were under reduced pressure, but enough to show people the proper way to handle and operate one.

Guests would aim the hose at the flames in the prop and if they hit it correctly, the flames would fall down, representing a quenched flame. The flames were on hinges so they could easily be reset and used over and over.

“It was Boardman Fire Chief Mark Pitzer’s idea to build one, but he gave me the freedom on the design and number of props,” Wittman said.

He chose to help the department have a mini city of sorts and ended up building three structures: an apartment building, a garage and a dog house. Wittman worked with Boardman firefighter Tony Steiner on the project.

Steiner “answered any question I had and he designed the first prop,” Wittman said. “He helped with cutting metal and certifying my material list. I based them off of the original prop.”

Wittman said he also worked close with his father and a few friends. The props were constructed at Wittman’s home, then finished up at the main fire station on Market Street. The project took three weeks and 81 man hours to finish, and were ready for the Oct. 15 open house.

“Our annual open house is one way the community and their kids are introduced to our firefighters and the basic fundamentals of our career,” said Pitzer. “With these buildings the children can challenge themselves by handling a real fire hose with one of our firefighters. These interactions will further foster the relationship between our community and our department. We will be able to use these props for years to come.”

Wittman said he must now await a board of review before he is awarded his Eagle. He started with Pack 27 in first grade and has been in Scouting since. He will soon age out of being a Boy Scout, but he does plan on returning to serve as an adult adviser.

“I have met a lot of friends through Scouting and developed leadership skills, learned first aid and developed outdoor skills,” Wittman said.

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