Firefighter's tragic death prompts questions about training and equipment

- What kind of training does it take to be a firefighter?

"An average fire, you're going to see temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees."

Eric Hendrix, the Gaston County Fire Marshal, says you need more than 370 hours to become a state certified firefighter in North Carolina. That goes for both paid and volunteers.

"There’s no difference between a volunteer and a career firefighter. Just the paycheck," said Hendrix.

The Pineville volunteer firefighter who died Saturday, 20-year-old Richard Sheltra, logged more training hours than any other firefighter in his department according to the chief. This leaves some to wonder about the equipment.

"If it's a mechanical device, it's made by humans, and has the potential to fail. I don't know if that's the case here. I don't have any information to lead me in that direction.”

Hendrix says most departments follow routine checks on equipment, but the gear goes only so far.

The Mecklenburg County Fire Marshal's office says 33 minutes passed between the time Pineville firefighters arrived on scene and when the two downed firefighters were pulled out of the building.

"The average person will be wearing the 30 minute cylinder. It gives you about a half an hour. It depends on the amount of work you're doing, your physical fitness. Someone could get 15 minutes out of it or 25 minutes out of it," Hendrix said.

Did Sheltra's air run out? At this point, that's just speculation. The Occupational Safety and Health Division is investigating. That could take three to four months to complete.

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