Tuesday, January 19, 2010
We are into Week 11 now – just 13 training days away from graduation!
We continue to adhere to a fairly consistent schedule of morning lectures followed by a brief lunch for recruits and then afternoon practical sessions. By the way, I have no idea when – or if – the instructors eat. These guys have been truly self-sacrificing in order to ensure the training is delivered for us. They use every available minute of their extended work day to arrange “the next evolution” for us and to take care of the monumental list of logistical details that go into making the classroom and practical exercises safe, educational, and realistic.
This morning I presented a lesson on the Department’s Strategic Plan and my personal insights on “where we’ve been” as a department, “where we’re going,” and the transformation of our operations and services that will lead us to that future. It was a long session (sorry fella’s!), but I wanted my classmates to have some important information that the rest of the department had received during the last couple of years.
Mr. Vrona also covered several chapters from the textbook on Pre-fire Planning and Report Writing. Pre-Fire Planning involves looking at a property before an emergency occurs there so we have a “game plan” already in mind when we’re responding to that property. The plan is developed after a visit to the property for a detailed tour and inspection of the buildings, access roads, and surrounding topography. During the inspection, we identify specific hazards of the building or contained in the building (such as stored hazardous materials or void spaces where a fire could be concealed and grow undetected), access issues, and fire detection and suppression systems. We wrapped up our Pre-Fire Planning lesson by conducting an actual inspection of the building our training classroom is located in and assembling a diagram of the building, it’s special features, and the surrounding areas.
The afternoon session today consisted of live fire training in the Class-A burn building at the Training Facility. This building is a very unique and valuable for firefighter training. Most modern burn buildings use natural gas or propane as fuel for training fires. Those gas-fired buildings are very safe (you can instantly shut off the gas and extinguish the fire), and they burn with very little smoke. It’s a very safe and “clean” way to teach fire attack tactics. The older style “Class A” building we have at Saint Paul Fire uses ordinary combustible materials to fuel our training fires: wood, cardboard, cloth, straw, and other natural fuels. The fires created with these fuels produce much more smoke, cannot be put out with a push of the button, and require “overhaul” (breaking up the ashes and debris to ensure the fire is completely extinguished). The result is a more realistic fire situation – one that could typically be found in the structure fires we fight. The fires in the Class A burn building are also messier to clean up and less safe than in gas-fired simulators.
Our class was broken into 5 groups of 4 recruits each (one group of five – there’s 21 of us in the academy). Each group was to operate as a “fire company” – a four-person firefighting team. Each group was assigned one of the fireground functions typically conducted on the scene of a structure fire:
· Attack Team: they arrive on scene, connect a water supply from a hydrant to the fire engine, “stretch” attack lines (hoses) into the building, find the fire, and put it out. They also search for fire victims (occupants who may still be inside the burning building) and help ventilate (clear the smoke from the building) when the fire is out.