Friday, July 15, 2016

Live-burn training at fire school – demonstrating you’re prepared

The fire school instructors called the final burn skills day a “show me” what you learned day, which meant we needed to demonstrate the abilities during this live-burn training that the instructors taught us throughout the program. We learned some skills from our fire company and our members helped hone the skills as we learned them in school.

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - Pictured are two firefighters tasked as RIT (Rapid Intervention Team) during a live- burn training at the Delaware County Emergency Services Training Center, which is similar to the "final burn" skills day in the "firefighter one" program.  
The squads – students in the “firefighter one” class divided into groups called squads - totaled 30 students who went into the training center burn building to prove to our instructors that we were prepared by showcasing our skills, including fire suppression. We wanted to enjoy everything we worked so hard to learn and accomplish. The hours of lectures, reading, studying, performing skills and practicing outside of school paid off and it benefits you as a firefighter for future responses.

As I observed my one-year anniversary of joining my local fire company, I reflected on my journey as a volunteer firefighter before the final burn started. I accrued the basic knowledge of firefighting with a desire to keep learning.

I carried a challenge coin in my pocket during the burn in November 2015. I earned it a few days prior from the lead fire school instructor for having a test score average above 90 percent. Although it symbolized how hard I worked in school, I carried it with pride and like a symbol of protection.

“When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. The flames will not hurt you.” – Isaiah 43:2 

Being a person of faith in the fire service, I keep this verse from a bible story in mind. I repeated it silently before I met my squad to enter the burn building. A handful of instructors teamed up with each squad. That day I would have been happy to follow any instructor into the burn building. We connected with them overtime.

I found it easy to trust the instructors with my life. You rely on your crew for everyone to go home safely. Seeing the student-population from various companies, it dawned on me then how we all had to trust each other whether we wanted to or not. I thought that trusting another firefighter with my life would be difficult to get past, but I hardly think about it. From training together to socializing at the station and at school, we saw people’s strengths and we learned together.

Students in the fall 2015 firefighter one program pose together outside of a training prop at the Delaware County Emergency Services Training Center. The firefighters are from various fire companies in Delaware and Chester Counties. 
We performed search and rescue drills at school and at my station in the dark or with our air masks covered to simulate being unable to see through smoky conditions. It forced us to reach up and down the walls for doors and windows, as well as to our sides to search the ground and objects for people. We relied on our touching senses since we lost our vision. During some of the rotations in the burn building, we couldn’t see much because of the smoke. When we knocked down the fire, we were met with more smoke and our visibility worsened.

I’ve asked the senior members about their experiences and what it’s like in a burning building. They all said the same thing: you can’t see your hand in front of your face. We experienced that several times when we trained in the burn building. During some rotations you could clearly see, but sometimes you solely relied on the hoseline to make your way through as you communicated with your crew to stay together. In one room you could see everything and another room there would be smoke which sometimes hindered your vision. In some rooms you could see because of the glow from the fire. 

My squad worked well as a unit that day, just as we did throughout the four-month program. It was one of our best days together, and our last day of class. I graduated from fire school in December 2015 and became a paid helper at the training center in February 2016 to assist the instructors with the firefighter one program.

During the final burn for the recent firefighter one program at the Delaware County Emergency Services Training Center, I happened to assist the same instructors who led my squad on final burn. It was neat to work with the instructors who went in with me on my burn. I listened as they discussed with this squad about how they performed in the rotations, what they learned from the fire behavior, the tactics used or what to try differently in another rotation. I liked when the instructors shared a related experience because it’s a great way to continue learning from them.

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