Pa. Eagle Scout builds roof simulator for firefighters

As many as 16 firefighters have been on the structure at one time and four other volunteer fire companies have trained on it


By Laura Lenk
The Pittsburgh Tribune Review

BELLEVUE, Pa. — Thanks to an Eagle Scout, firefighters at the Bellevue Volunteer Fire Company now can cut into the roofs of burning homes more efficiently to free residents and release pent-up heat and smoke.

When Joshua Golembiewski, 19, of Bellevue started his Eagle Scout project for Troop 226 last year, he decided to build a roof simulator that would give the firefighters an extra edge in saving lives.

The simulator measures 12 by 16 feet and stands 6 feet off the ground at the peak and 3 feet off the ground at the slope. It is covered in shingles and features two 4- by 4-foot sections of plywood that the firefighters cut into to familiarize themselves with where the rafters are so they don't accidentally cut into the supports. Metal flashing helps keep them from cutting into the shingles, and the plywood pieces can easily be replaced. Smoke machines give the training added authenticity.

Golembiewski's interest in the project grew after he heard that the fire department wanted a simulator and that only three existed in the area.

"The opportunity presented itself and I would probably do it again in the future for another company," he said.

Together with his father, Raymond Golembiewski, members of Faith Community Christian Church, a master carpenter and the fire chief, Glenn Pritchard, Golembiewski studied one of the simulators in the area, at Peebles District Volunteer Fire Company in McCandless. He made plans to improve on it by adding thicker rafters and posts, trap doors and spaces to store ladders and other equipment. He attended council meetings for six months to secure a site, finally settling on Edward Gillott Field.

"Josh was always down there and he still checks in pretty frequently," said Pritchard. "We even tried to con him into joining the fire department."

"Our guys were actually under Josh's supervision. We were his 'employees' — he made the schedule, handled the funding. ... He's made a great training aid that's much safer," Pritchard said.

As many as 16 firefighters have been on the structure at one time and four other volunteer fire companies have trained on it.

Greg Halligan, Golembiewski's Scoutmaster, said his dedication was evident early on. He met him at age 12, a year after Golembiewski helped found Troop 226.

"He's always been committed to doing things for his community and held the position of senior patrol leader, as voted on by his peers. It's the Grand Poobah of Boy Scouts," Halligan said.

"His project required engineering ability and the ability to manufacture something potentially dangerous. A normal project takes 100 hours and this probably took him about 200."

Raymond Golembiewski, who also was an Eagle Scout, recalls his own project: painting 99 fire hydrants in Etna red, white and blue with a stencil of the Liberty Bell for the 1976 U.S. bicentennial.

"I was not as ambitious as my son with my project. We all have our areas that aren't 100 percent, but he is always reliable serving his troop," he said.

Golembiewski attends Community College of Allegheny County in the North Side, majoring in music with an emphasis on guitar. He still leads his troop as an assistant scoutmaster.

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