Week Four – Pushing The Reset Button

Day sixteen, seventeen and eighteen brought on the topic of ventilation. The first day was all classroom and some great information was delivered to us. Again, a lot of it was very familiar material but there was also some changes in the way the fire service does business when it comes to ventilation. Reading the fire and smoke conditions, fire flow paths, changes in the lightweight construction and even some new tools since I first entered the fire service in 1976.

The second day was mostly outside hands on training. We did another rough morning of physical fitness training followed by an entire day of hard work. We practicing forced and natural ventilation using positive pressure and negative pressure ventilation techniques the entire morning. We were split into engine, rescue and ladder companies for the evolutions. As a member of the truck company we had the opportunity to practice ventilation techniques in coordination with the engine company making the attack. We spent the major part of the afternoon in full gear and SCBA doing this in heat that was around 90 degrees. It was hot, humid and we were working hard. Each of us was sweating our asses off wearing full turn out gear and wearing SCBA.

After the smoke and ventilation drills it was time to hit the roof and cut some ventilation holes. By this time we had been in full turn out gear with SCBA for about 2 or so hours. I got up on the roof, cut my vent hole using a vent saw (a chain saw with depth gauge and chain guard), came down and grabbed the first two guys I could get and anxiously told them, “Get me out of this shit now!” I was hot and exhausted! A quick check by Jessica, a classmate who has finished her paramedic training, revealed I had a pulse rate of 130, B/P of 150/30 and pulse ox of 98.

Jessica poured some cold water over my head, down my back and chest to cool me off. It took my breath away but it felt great. I spent several minutes sitting in the shade drinking a bottle of cold water and rubbing ice chips over my head to cool down. I don’t remember fire school in Florida being this hot. Then again it was in November and December and even in Florida it was a little cooler than it had been this time around.

We started the third day of ventilation with a three mile run. More roof cutting and more scenarios followed by review and testing. Most of us can handle a three-mile run well at this point. For the most part all of us can handle the hard work, hours in full turn out gear, heat hovering around 90 degrees and the pressure to perform. Having spent many years in the fire service, both paid and volunteer, I can say that fire school has handed me more physically demanding days than the biggest meanest fire ever has. Then again, I am older than I ever have been and it has been 15 years since I was an active firefighter.

NFPA 1584 requires that on the fire scene or training a firefighter get mandatory rehab before going back to work and only after having medical clearance. I can’t say that the same holds true in fire school policy. We had an instructor tell us that in every one of his classes he has had to call EMS to start an IV and treat a dehydrated and over-heated trainee. He continued to say that there was no shame in this and that it happens. Really? What does that say about that instructor and his pushing his students into an emergency medical condition requiring advanced life support treatment? Why the hell would an instructor pay so little attention to his students as to cause a medical emergency that has the potential to be life threatening? Rant over, you get my point. None of us reached that point despite working our asses off. I might have to call bullshit on that statement by the instructor.

Day nineteen was a scorcher at 94 degrees with portable fire extinguishers as the subject. We started with circuit training that was heavy on legs workout. Following a three-mile run and the exhausting day the day before it made for a very tired leg day. I heard several of the guys saying the same thing.

We spent the first part of the morning in the classroom and the rest of the day outside, in full gear and deploying extinguishers on ordinary combustibles (pallets and hay which are a mainstay of the fire service training sector) and flammable liquids. The guys really liked the day as it was the first time we have had the opportunity to see fire since starting the academy.

Day twenty was the first of three days of Fire Hose, Streams and Appliances. Much of the day was spent with lecture and some hands on with different adapters, appliances, nozzles and other assorted tools used to move the wet stuff to the red stuff. It was a day of rolling hose, unrolling hose, learning how to pack hose and pull loads. All in all a great first day of “hose” but I have been through this before and knew what was to come. But that would be after the weekend and some time to rest.

©Alden L. Doane 2015

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