PLANNING DEATH AT FIREFIGHTER TRAINING: THE ROOKIE ROAST
Monday, January 29, 2007
HIGH SPRINGS, FL. A fire raged Sunday at a High Springs home, but this blaze had no ties to tragedy, heartache or even significant danger.
High Springs firefighters burned the home, located on Northwest First Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets, as a way to train new firefighters.
The group of 16 firefighters, two of whom were from a Bell fire unit, and the rest from High Springs began training with smoke exercises at the home at 7:30 a.m. and continued well into the afternoon until actually lighting the home and burning the structure.
High Springs Fire Chief Terry Jewell helped oversee the training, in which new firefighters were paired up with those who had more experience and were put to the test in numerous ways. These rookies had to undergo a "rookie roast" in which they stayed in a room with their partner until they couldn’t take the heat any longer.
The smoke training, Jewell said, helps get new firefighters acclimated to working in completely dark rooms while wearing their heavy gear.
We smoke the house up to a black state where you cant see anything, and we do rescue operations with either a live person on air or a child simulator, he said. Its a good tool for us to learn ...where we need to go with them.
Dwayne King, a firefighter/emergency medical technician of 17 years, said that rescues take time to get used to because a room full of smoke will be completely black and will have a layout that is unfamiliar to the rescuer. To add to the difficulty, a firefighter will be wearing abut 75 pounds of equipment and crawling on the floor to avoid the high temperatures on the ceiling, which can reach 1,100 degrees, King said.
After smoke training, Jewell said, the firefighters concentrated on simulating a real fire situation in a single room of the home.
Each firefighter got one or two chances to extinguish the fire in the room, Jewell said. Then, in what is known as a rookie roast, the firefighters were tested to see how long they could safely withstand the heat of an intense blaze.
We stay in there until the last possible moment to see who buckles. Jewell said. It’s not dangerous, just makes you feel like you want to leave. The idea is, you stay with your partner no matter what and its hot and dark.
A fire fighter holds a glass of flammable liquid as he prepares to ignite other areas of the home as part of the practice burn Sunday.
Lt. Bruce Gillingham, who has been a firefighter for 11 years, said that safety is the main issue when preparing for a burn.
A home that will be burned undergoes safety checks and procedures in about a month-long process that involves constant work by the firefighters themselves.
During the fire, several people keep count of everyone on scene at all times, to make sure everyone is accounted for.
Also, at least five backup people will be on a fire scene, checking to make sure that anyone inside is safe.
Even after the fire is extinguished, he said, firefighters will continue to monitor the home for at least several days to make sure that everything is put out.
Every aspect of the fire is controlled, he said, but the situation still is a great one for new firefighters to learn from and more experienced firefighters to continue their training.
Andy Pearce, who has been a firefighter/EMT for three years, said practicing in such situations gives firefighters a better idea of how they will react in an emergency.
Its a totally different world, he said of learning to work in darkness. You have to use your other senses.