Wednesday, January 6 (Day 38):
Today’s morning lectures including sessions on department administrative computer systems, on line vacation bidding, and preventing back injuries. I had to miss much of the morning due to a Fire Chief meeting downtown, but rejoined the class just before lunch, and caught the tail end of “Back Injury Prevention.”
Following a quick lunch, we broke into 5 groups for the much-anticipated afternoon sessions: live fire training in the burn building. Fighting actual fires was definitely something we’ve looked forward to. Moving into the burn building for actual firefighting helped mark our continued progression from “classroom” to “field”.....from “civilian” to “firefighter!” Even the icy weather could not dampen our eagerness to get some “nozzle time” on a real fire.
The class split into 5 groups of 4 men each: (one of our members was sent home to recover from a severe illness):
- The “Attack Team” would pull a pre-connected hose line off the truck, advance into the building, and find and extinguish the fire.
- The “Back Up Team” would also pull 200 feet of pre-connected hose off the fire engine, advance into the building, follow the Attack Team to the seat of the fire, and help extinguish the fire in case the primary team lost water pressure or got diverted into rescuing victims (victims were simulated in today’s exercises by mannequins placed in several locations inside the building).
- The “Search Team” would go into the building to search for the fire victim mannequins and open windows for ventilation.
- The “Ventilation Team” would place ladders to the second floor of the building (providing emergency egress routes for fire crews working inside the building). This team also would place a ladder to the roof, place a roof ladder to the building’s peak, and open up scuttles on the roof to provide vertical ventilation of hot gases and smoke from inside the building.
- “The Safety Team” would assist the instructor in starting the fire inside the building, then stand by with a charged fire hose (in the room adjacent to the fire) to extinguish the fire if an emergency developed during the exercise. This crew got a front row seat in watching the Attack Team fight the fire, and they were positioned in close proximity to the fire and got an excellent demonstration of fire behavior, the growth and spread of the fire, smoke layering, and flame rollover (flames at the ceiling burning across the ceiling and spreading into other rooms of the building). It was like the Fire Behavior Simulator Prop on steroids!
We conducted three full evolutions before we ran out of time. I was on the Search Team, then the Back Up Team, and finally, the Safety Team. It was 3 hours of uninterrupted, challenging FUN!
Our four-man search team broke into 2 teams to search the ground floor and basement on the first fire. Larry and I went to the left inside the front door to search interior quadrants 1 and 2, and Tony and Justin took the right side of the first floor (interior quadrants 4 and 3). Larry and I found a smoldering fire and opened several windows while conducting the search, and watched as the Attack Team brought out one of the fire victims. The smoke was moderately thick – I could see Larry’s flashlight from about 5 feet away, but I could not see his actual body – it was like crawling around in a very dense fog. Listening and feeling became the primary senses of choice, but I did use my vision to keep track of Larry’s position (his flashlight beam), and could see the reflective patches on his turnout gear and helmet.