I know some of you just live for new stories about my experiences on the fire department, so I’ve got a good one for ya! :) A week ago at fire practice, our chief and deputy chief came up with an exercise to test our practical abilities, to complement the classroom stuff we’ve been doing. The scenario was a structure fire in a single story building, and we weren’t sure if there was anyone inside. There were 12 of us involved in the scenario, enough for two fire trucks. The first time we ran the scenario, the team I was on was the first on the scene. As such, some of my teammates were tasked with putting on breathing apparatus to be the first people in. This means that as soon as we can get staged and water flowing, they are to go into the building, find the fire and start putting it out, and start looking for any survivors (2 people fight fire, 2 people look for survivors). I was tasked with “tagging the hydrant” which means that my job was to take the hose from the truck and attach it to the hydrant. There are several steps involved, and I’ve been trained on how to do it, but frankly, I’ve only helped with this once on a real fire scene and only done it by myself in training. So this scenario was good practice!
As soon as I had finished at the hydrant and radioed the pump operator that I was ready to flow water, I went to the truck to see what else I could do. We always have some water in the tank on the truck to start fighting the fire, but establishing a reliable water flow/source is very important. Back at the door of the pretend burning building, the “first up” team who had been doing search and rescue was just coming back out, so I was teamed up with another fire fighter to go in and continue the search. This was great — I had only learned about search and rescue a few weeks ago, and had never done it. I did everything I learned to do — followed my teammate and held on to her boot (it is often so smoky that you can’t see your partner so you have to go by touch), I had a tool (like a long crow bar) that I swept the floor with as we crawled, and I kept in verbal contact with my partner. Wouldn’t you know it, we found a casualty — Rescue Randy, a crash test dummy we have for training purposes. Man, that plastic dude is heavy! My partner, who is a petite-but-tough woman, and I started heaving Randy’s body out of the building. We didn’t have far to go, but we got some help from another team member when we got tired. He spelled me off and then I took over from my partner. It was exhausting work, and Randy only weighs 165 lbs. I was dripping in sweat by the time we were done.
What can I say — my team rocked! The chief and deputy chief said I did the hydrant perfectly, and we not only put the fire out, we found the casualty and got him safely out of the building. We had a little room for improvement in communication, but otherwise we had all done a great job! The second scenario was even more fun, and we rocked again.
This time, we were the second fire truck on the scene and our job was to back up the first crews. We were to immediately set up a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT), so that if anyone inside the building gets hurt, lost, or runs out of air, we go in and help them. We always make sure when two people are in the building, two people are outside standing by, just in case. Sure enough, just after we got all our gear out, the first call for help came. The team hauling out the casualty needed help. So, in went the first two people. My friend Colin and I were on the second RIT team, so we became next-up. A couple of minutes later, we got the call that part of the (pretend) building had collapsed on the two people who had been fighting the pretend fire. We quickly grabbed the RIT bag (which has an extra air tank and face mask) and went into the building. Colin totally rocked that situation! He confirmed that they were still with their hose line, so all we had to do was follow the hose to find them — an important detail that made our job much easier. In the scenario, they weren’t far in the building, but in real life, they might be around corners, up or down stairs, and following the hose is the easiest way to locate them. Once we found them, one guy, just to make it more fun, said “both my legs are broken.” Below the knees. Oh, geez. So, Colin coordinated how we would carry him out of the building and we did just that. I’m sure we jostled him a little and he would have been in some pain, but heck, when you’re in a burning building, you gotta be fast! Then, to go back in and help the other fire fighter out, Colin turned to me and said “how’s your oxygen?” Since we weren’t actually on oxygen and I had no idea how much time had elapsed, I just kind of went “uh, I dunno.” So, he grabbed my helmet with one hand on each side, looked me in the face and said “are you okay to go back in?” So I said “Yes!” and we did. We helped the second fire fighter, who could walk on his own, and the scenario was over.
Again, dripping with sweat. Exhausted. Happy! Sore knees (almost all the work in the building was crawling). But happy!
I learned a lot about how a complex situation like that would be managed, and I also really enjoyed actually doing many of the things I’ve been learning about. So there ya go! I was just a chattering away when I got home, and I still get excited when I think about it. :) That’s how I know I’m doing the right thing for me — I’m excited every time I go on a call or go to practice!