SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Firefighters from across the country and Mexico are training with today's reality on their mind – short staffing and limited resources.
Saturday kicked off the first day of Firehouse World here with a several hands-on classes that allowed firefighters the chance to get down and dirty while improving their skills and techniques.
Eight firefighters traveled from Clark County, Nev. to participate in hands-on training. Several other colleagues will join them this week.
At Ron Moore's "Scenario-Based Patient Extrication Training" session, Alex Logan said he was attending the program to increase his extrication skills.
"Last year, they closed our rescue company, so now we're doing the extrication work," said Logan, who has been with Clark County for two years. "We are learning all sorts of different ways to do this work. Before the company was closed, this wasn't something that the engine companies were normally doing."
"I've never done tunneling on a vehicle, but I got to do that today and it was great," he said.
Attendees sharpened their skills on a variety of tactics including total sidewall removal as well as extricating people trapped in upside down vehicles or ones on their sides.
Clark County Capt. Chris Cave said his crews were attending to learn more about tactics, high-rise operations and ventilation. "I'm here to get different input and take classes on leadership."
Jeremey Talbott, who has been in the fire service since 1991, saved up some money to attend Firehouse World. He traveled from Friday Harbor Fire Department on San Juan Island, Wash.
"I just love it. It's new tools for my toolbox," he said. "My fire department just got acquired by another department. So, I am here to learn about extrication. It's not something that we've been responsible for before."
At the San Diego's Fire Training Facility, located next to San Diego Airport, firefighters took part in
"Don't Die Inside... Manage Your Air and Live!!!' with Phil Jose and Steve Bernocco from Seattle.
Students drain their SCBA bottles down to 1600 liters of air and must perform the given tasks and return to the entryway before the low air alarm sounds.
Battalion Chief Phil Jose said, "We don't want to hear a low air alarm or pass alarm on the fireground in Seattle and we don't want to hear it here."
"We teach the students how to get out long before their alarm sounds and how to understand how much air they consume and how to keep from getting into an emergency situation."
The students went through three scenarios where they become disoriented and get caught on hazards. While several exited the building with air left in their bottle, several low air alarms were sounding. "By the time they leave today, we'll have worked with them to make sure their alarms aren't sounding and they've got extra air when they exit the building."
West Sacramento Captain Mike Taylor is a former student and hands-on on instructor who led "Success with Less," a new program at Firehouse World this year.
"The foundation of this class is the basics and it's based on what the firefighters carry and what is on the truck," Taylor said. "We try to teach them to use what they have and to make things more efficient."
Taylor said that departments in his area have seen budget cuts that have reduced staffing and closed companies. That was the basis for the program, to help crews be proactive and accomplish tasks while they are forced to do more with less.
"As the economy has changed, so has the fire service, but fires don't care about staffing and what we have available."
Christian Sherfy, Chief of the Fort Jones Fire Department in Northern California, drove 12 hours with firefighter Kory Tiner to attend. It wasn't Shery's first time, but it was Tiner's.
"The biggest thing I learned today is tool management," Sherfy said. "We've learned how to get more equipment with less trips," he said as an instructor showed others in the group how two can easily carry a 24-foot ladder, a roof ladder, along with a saw, axe and pike pole for ventilation. The groups of two performed the exercise several times until they pefected the skills.
"Fort Jones is likely to have a small group of firefighters turn out at structure fires because of it's rural location."
On Sunday, dozens of new faces will arrive at the hands-on classes and also arrive at the convention center for pre-conference sessions.
Cave said, "It's all about the brotherhood here. The skills we learn here, we'll take it back home to the brothers."