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The 9-1-1 distress call, the smell of smoke, the heat of flames, the weight of the 75-pound turnout gear, and the blood and adrenaline coursing through veins, is only some of what firemen experience every time they answer a call to extinguish a fire.
Firefighters at the New Albany Fire Department fight fires on a weekly, monthly and sometimes daily basis, and to keep them in practice, the chief and captains hold a monthly fire training session at Fire Station 2 on Deaton Street in New Albany. They call this address 123 Fire Academy Lane.
At this training facility, there is a story and a half concrete structure with reinforced steel inside the rooms, complete with a kitchen, hallway, stairwell, living room, bedrooms. This training teaches the firefighting techniques as well as teaching the firefighters the rollover effect when the fire gets to the ceiling.
Fire Chief Jeff Hale said, “Today we are going to be simulating firefighter safety and orientation. When firefighters get to the scene, they are supposed to come and check in at command so there is accountability and the one in command knows who is on the scene. In our training scenario, we are going to simulate a rogue firefighter who was freelancing. For example, a firefighter came in, did not check in with command and the firefighter went down and no one ever knew they were there.”
The firefighter (firefighter dummy) ended up being a victim of the fire and smoke inhalation and died on the scene.
The firefighters reenact the entire scene of what to do in the event of an actual emergency. A 9-1-1 call came in and reported that there was a structure fire, the firefighters suited up in their turnout gear, drove to the scene, (they have a two to three minute time limit to get dressed and get to the scene), hook the hose up to the hydrant and get water flowing through the hose, survey the scene, talk to homeowners (if possible), find out if there is anyone inside the structure, and extinguish the fire, while keeping radio communication between the chief, captains, drivers and firefighters the whole time.
Shift Captain Mark Sides at Fire Station 2 said, “Make sure there is radio communication at all times. It is your lifeline.”
Shift Captain C James Cobb from Fire Station 1 said, “When you get to the house, every situation is different. What you do first depends on the house, the smoke, the windows, and the fire. We come to the front door (with a ventilation team standing by), find out if the homeowners are outside (get information from them), feel the door to see if it is hot and if it is, stand to the side and open the door in case of a rollover fire, do an initial search for a victim (if there is presumed to be one inside the house), then one team crawls in on the left side and the other crawls in on the right side. If there are no victims, the firefighters immediately go to attack the fire. There are so many different scenarios you have to be aware of. Heat, fuel, and oxygen are key elements of a fire. If you can take away one of them, you can extinguish a fire.”
“The number one thing is safety. In this training scenarios, we are introducing the firefighters to things that they normally don’t do and preparing and training to move up the ladder in command,” Hale said.
Cobb agreed about safety. He also said, “We are training drivers that will one day be captains and how to handle stress when they are in the situation.”
The firefighters don a fire suits made from flame and chemical retardant material, gloves, an air pack, an air mask, a fire retardant hood, a helmet, rubber boots, and other materials that equal to 75 pounds of weight. In addition, there is also an air sensor that is motion detected that beeps to let the other firefighters know when a firefighter is losing air and has gone down. The firefighters have to constantly move their bodies to make sure it doesn’t alarm.
“Every fire scene is different, but all of the basic rules are the same. That is why these fire training sessions are so important because it allows us to practice. You go on with your partner and you never leave your partner,” said Cobb.
Every person that wants to become a firefighter has to go through six weeks of fire training at the fire academy in Jackson and they learn academics, hazardous material training and practice physical training with and without their 75-pound suits.
Loud noises, sound of yourself breathing within an air mask, the smell and sight of smoke, the heat of a fire, the radio communication between the firefighters, commands from the chief and captains, the location of the fire, and extinguishing the fire are all in a day’s work when it comes to being a firefighter.