Firefighters train to stay safe as job grows more dangerous

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PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The hoses, the ladders - they're timeless tools of the trade, but for firefighters, the world around them is getting more dangerous.

"Some of the furnishings - the sofas and the furniture - years ago that was cotton. So it didn't burn as rapidly," former Fire Chief Jeff Nichols said.

However, new chemicals and materials aren't so forgiving.

"It burns so much quicker. And some of that foam rubber, for example, puts off cyanide gas," Nichols said.

It's a scary reality. That's why safety training is a main reason for the Smokey Mountain Weekend Fire and Rescue Expo, an event Nichols helped organize.

"We have to do our best to make sure that we get people educated, so they can go out and do their jobs, and go home the next morning after their shift," Nichols said.

Staying up-to-date on safety training isn't always easy for volunteer fire departments. They don't have the time, and they especially don't have the resources.

Volunteer Fire Chief James King said that's why events like this one are a huge deal for smaller departments.

"It's hard for them to get the funding to send people to training," he said. "Training events like this are cheaper, plus the state helps us out. And it helps us get trained," he said.

About 70 percent of Tennessee fire departments are volunteer, which is why the Pigeon Forge Fire Department helps put together this expo each year.

"We like to give them something so they can take back and be safe in their communities," Chief Tony Watson said.

It's not just Tennessee, departments from surrounding states attended the conference as well.

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