Day 10 - Fire Academy

Up at 0330 to study for class, check email, and prepare comments for a press conference and a staffing discussion today.

The academic portion of the fire academy is extensive. We are preparing for the state certification test for Firefighter I and II, and using the “Fundamentals of Fire Fighting Skills, 2nd Edition” textbook and workbook published by Jones and Bartlett. The book was authored by a panel of experts from the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Fire Protection Association. In class, we cover a chapter from the book each day during the morning lecture periods. Some of the chapters are quite extensive; the chapter I studied last night and this morning (hoses, nozzles, streams and foam) is 60 pages long. That’s a lot of material to cover, and my classmates and I were well advised to devote the necessary off-duty time to keeping up with the academic rigors of the academy.
The morning lecture session today also included SOPs, rope and knot practice, and a hands-on practical session on water supplies and hydrants. I had to skip out on the practical session to attend a Fire Chief function across town, which turned out to be a heart-warming experience in itself.
The function involved a young mother, Natasha, who had suffered a heart attack 8 years ago. She was 33 at the time, and had 2 very young sons to care for. Bystanders performed CPR on Natasha, until Saint Paul Fire Department paramedic personnel arrived on scene. The crew of Medic 10, B-shift, brought her to the hospital, defibrillating her heart numerous times on the scene and en route to the hospital. Natasha recovered fully, with no neurological deficit. Today she met her “rescuers” from Medic 10 for the first time since the incident, and she donated an automatic External Defibrillator (AED) to her local church community – Saint Peter Claver Church.
Seeing Natasha and her family hugging the crew from Medic 10 was heartwarming, and hearing her story made everyone feel thankful for life, family, and pre-hospital medical services in this City! The B-shift crew from Engine 15 was also at the event, and the crew gave a short fire engine ride to Natasha’s 2 sons, ages 11 and 14. 
Natasha is now a very active member of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association. Check out their AWESOME website at:
The site has great information on cardiac arrest, survivor support, AED and treatment technologies, and even how you can donate and AED to your local school, church, or organization.
I returned to the academy just in time for the lunch break, which I spent discussing deployment of medical assets citywide with senior staff.
During the afternoon’s practical sessions, my academy classmates and I met the exceptional crew from Medic 22, B-shift, and discussed medical equipment and operations. Medical work comprises roughly 85% of the firefighter’s work in Saint Paul, so being well-versed on medical operations is paramount to success on the job. All Saint Paul firefighters are certified as Emergency Medical Technicians, and roughly 1/3 of our 434 firefighters have attained Paramedic certification as well.
We finished the day with an hour of PT – Physical Training. Today “Mr. Deno” (Captain Jerry Deno, of the Training Division staff) found a new way to torture our legs and lungs: running up the 6 flights of the drill tower stairs wearing SCBAs! Later, he warned us, that we’d be running the stairs in full PPE ensemble and SCBAs. I am finding that the running does not bother me, but that my legs and lungs burn from the intensity of running the tower stairs. Today the lungs didn’t hurt like they did last week, but my legs were awful “heavy” feeling with that air tank on!
As I sat at the kitchen table and studied the other morning, listening to Ladder 10, Ladder 8, and the other companies working that fire on Grand avenue, I marveled at the physical strength and endurance of those firefighters working on the roof. Knowing how tired I was just running stairs with an air pack on made me admire the physical strength and courage of the firefighters on this great department! If my classmates and I are to be worthy of living up to the legacy set by the fire crews here in Saint Paul, we’ll have to run a lot more stairs during the next 11 weeks. I’m sure “Mr. Deno” will be arranging just that – and the whole while beaming at us with that sadistic smile of his!
I’ll have a special edition of this blog discussing the 6-story drill tower in the future. The building is a very unique training facility, and worth a closer look….I hope you can join me “On Scene” for that “tour” in the near future.