18 February 2006

Women's Fire Training

I got to the fire station at 0500. Way too early in the morning for me. We got on the bus at 0530. There were four of us from my station and three women from other stations in the county (that actually rode with us). I was excited that I was going to be riding in the short bus today, but I was disappointed when a short charter bus arrived. Oh well...window licking is overrated.

It took us about two hours to get to Frankfort, IL. We had a short introduction and then we broke out into our groups. My first group was on saws and torches. I got to use several saws and two different torches. I used a chain saw for the first time. Then I had forcible entry. The best thing I discovered was a device that you put on the middle or lower hinge in the door and it will hold it open. The best one was circular, and it barely let the door close at all; maybe two inches or so from the fully open position. We also discussed a lot of problems that they have with high rises in the city, and of course, customer service.

We had a break for lunch, which included a speaker. She was a Salt Lake City firefighter that won the world-wide combat challenge four years in a row, then retired. Shorly after, another competitor from Houston was killed in a fire-she was trapped when the roof collapsed in a McDonald's. At the funeral, our speaker was approached by the woman's sister who asker her if she would consider competing one more time for her fallen sister. Of course, she agreed, and went on to win once again with a time of 2:22. It was a touching speech, and we saw all the video clips from news programs covering the story.

My next class was SCBA entanglement. This was probably my most informative class. We went through a maze that was comparable to others I have been in-for the first 15 feet or so. There were tight spaces, studs that were only 12 inches apart (I even got through without dumping my pack!), a "victim" that we had to drag around corners and through obstacles, and wires. Yeah, the wires were the worst. I came across a wire. I thought to myself, not to bad. Of course it was dark, so I couldn't see ahead of me. There was a whole section of wires hanging just ahead and one was connected to the floor. I nearly made it through without dumping my pack, but I ended up getting way too stuck, so I dumped it and continued. There were a few more wires and a few corners before the end. I could see the light...and where it was coming from. It was a square opening-about 1' by 1', if that. I got through with no problem. I was glad when it was all over with. My air pack's bell started ringing toward's the end and I couldn't even hear my partner talking (hers was going off too).

My last class was flashover. We had a short classroom portion and then we headed out to the flashover simulator. It was probably one of the coolest things I have seen so far. We watched the fire from the beginning. We lit a small fire in a burn barrel in a corner and let it go. The smoke wasn't very dark at first, but you could see the layering, and the air flow. The air up above was flowing away from the fire, and you could see the smoke just above us getting sucked back towards the fire. Eventually, the room got dark with smoke-we could barely see the fire. Then we could see a slight glow,then the whole room got bright, and I could see flames rolling above us. Within seconds everything was on fire-it looked like a movie. It was awesome; I didn't want to knock it down-even when it got really hot. It was just too beautiful. We let it flash about 7 or 8 times before we finally vented the room. It was probably my favorite class. And I smelled like fire :)

I was back on the bus around 1700 and got home around 1845. I was beat and ready to rest...at least until 0600 tomorrow.


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