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Published: Wednesday, 9/28/2005

Whitehouse: 3 firefighters to spend time on searches, rescues in Antarctica

BY ELIZABETH A. SHACK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

For three Whitehouse firefighters, the weather's about to get a lot cooler, and not because it's autumn.

Bill May, an assistant fire chief and a village councilman, and firefighters Josh Hartbarger and Sean Powers expect to arrive at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, south of New Zealand, on Tuesday.

They'll spend about five months as part of a 44-person full-time fire department.

"It's a whole different thing out of the norm from Whitehouse, Ohio," Mr. May said.

In Antarctica, warm ocean currents or winds never reach the mainland, so the climate is intensely cold, and all precipitation falls as snow.

The firefighters at McMurdo do search and rescue operations for researchers lost on the ice in addition to fire and emergency runs at the station, which has close to 100 buildings and about 1,500 people during the summer months.

Part of the icy continent's lure is the knowledge that traveling there is a rare opportunity.

"How many people can say they've been to Antarctica?" Mr. Powers asked.

Travel and training expenses are provided by Raytheon Polar Services, a Colorado company that runs construction, cafeteria, and other services at McMurdo.

Mr. Hartbarger said that allows the firefighters to get training and experiences that will be of use to them when they return to Ohio.

This summer, the men spent 11 days in Salt Lake City to become certified in airport rescue fire fighting. One of the two fire stations where the men will be working is at McMurdo's airport.

LC-130 airplanes arrive in Antarctica on skis instead of wheels and use rockets to help take off the ice. Firefighters were trained on how to dismantle the rockets, Mr. May said.

Mr. May, who has 34 years with the Whitehouse Fire Department, will be a shift captain at McMurdo. Mr. Hartbarger and Mr. Powers are going as lieutenants.

Mr. May said the firefighters at McMurdo are selected from departments across the country, and added that it's unusual to have three members of one department there at a time.

"It just turned out that we all had the right stuff," he said.

The men credited the training they have undergone with the Whitehouse department with giving them the skills they needed to be selected.

Mr. Hartbarger has been with the Whitehouse Fire Department for about five years. He works at Instrument Service and Equipment in Maumee, his father's company.

Mr. Powers has been with the Whitehouse department since 1996 and is also a firefighter in Swanton. He works with Promedica Air and Mobile.



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