Highlights of Citizens Firefighter Academy – Week 7

Another great week to report at the Citizens Firefighter Academy.   This week suited up and put our new firefighting skills to the test.  We’d be suiting up in full bunker gear and attack both structure and car fires manually with fire hose.  It was family night,  and we were invited to bring our families to watch us battle fire. The fire exercises would be conducted at Collin County Community College in McKinney,Texas.  The College has a fire science program and we’d be using their facilities for the exercises.  The class started off with filling out paperwork and Asst. Chief McMurphy giving us a briefing of the exercises.  The first part of the exercise would start with structure fires and second part  would be car fires. The chief drew a layout of the room for the structure fire and gave us a plan of attack. The structure fire would use natural gas and the car fire would use propane.  The gas systems would be controlled remotely by firefighters and could be shut off if required.  Before suiting up we took a brief tour of the areas where the exercises would be conducted. The chief asked if we had any other questions and off we went.

Structure Fire

Citizens Firefighter Academy live burnWe were grouped into pairs of  two.  We suited up in our bunker gear along with air tanks.  The chief would be directing us as we conducted our exercise.  We volunteered as the first group for the structure fire.    We’d first attack fire at the ceiling level in a hallway and then enter an adjacent room that would simulate a bed catching on fire.   My partner  would be the front man controlling the hose and I would be standing behind support.   Chief McMurphy would be directing us where to aim the hose and help if needed.   We got into position, the hose was charged, and told the chief we were ready to go.  The hallway was pitch black… all of a sudden instant fire at the ceiling level. Damn, you could feel the heat quickly hit your body… the nozzle was turned on and off to the races we went.   The water was aimed at the ceiling level, my partner had to move the hose back and forth, he did this for several minutes and the fire was out we would then move to the adjacent  room and attack the bed fire.    The chief instructed us to spray and hit the back wall in a circular motion with water next to the bed as there was a measuring device that would calculate the amount of water sprayed onto the fire.   Round and round with the water hose we sprayed the back wall,  this was getting very tiring spraying the fully charged hose,  we did this for several minutes and the fire was out.   We then switched out going through the same exercise, I would take the lead and man the hose.  This was twice as hard, as it takes great strength and energy to move the pressurized hose in the circular sweeping motion.

Aahh Rest….

Citizens Firefighter Academy Live Burn3I couldn’t imagine doing this for more than ten minutes without taking frequent breaks.  The heat from the fire, weight of the bunker gear, and physical demands are just too taxing on the body. The chiefs were great in helping us out during this exercise.  Came out sweating profusely and felt extremely out of shape.    I  would  need to spend lot of time in the gym if I ever wanted to become a firefighter.    After we finished our exercise the next group came in and we took a long break to get hydrated and prepare for the car fire.

Car Fire

Citizens Firefighter Academy Live Burn 4After the entire class got a chance to participate in the structure fire our next challenge would be to be combatting a car fire.   This exercise was held out in the open with several of us manning the hose a remote distance from the vehicle.   This was more of the same sweeping motion and using our physical ability to combat the fire. By the time the exercises were complete it was dark.

Another great class.  This would be the last day of practical training.  The next class would be graduation at Station No. 3.    Please visit next week as I will have a summary of the class and graduation.

Also, If your interested how to become a firefighter, make sure to visit our friends at www.becomeafirefighterhq.net

Highlights of Citizens Firefighter Academy – Week 6

Hey guys.  Reporting another cool week at the Citizens Firefighter Academy.  This week we suited up in our bunker gear and got to flow water from hose and drive a fire truck. For this weeks activities we met at the parking lot at Hawaiian Falls.  Hawaiian Falls is local water park in our area.

Flowing Hose with Water

Firefighter Hose OperationWe suited up in our bunker gear and split up in two groups.  Our group first flowed water. Firefighters showed us how they connect 4-inch supply hose from a hydrant to the fire pumper truck.  From the fire pumper truck a smaller attack hose (1-3/4 inch or 2-1/2 inch) is used when conducting manual firefighting. The truck has a fire pump that to regulate the flow and pressure. Flow rates can vary from 100 to 300 gallons per minute (gpm) depending on the hose size.  We used 1-3/4 inch hose and flowed 1oo gpm.  Let me tell you, flowing a mere 100 gpm and maintaining it for long periods will wear you out.  My partner and I held the hose for a few minutes and we were struggling.  I imagine it would be even more difficult at higher flow rates.

View Inside Fire TruckDriving a Fire Truck

There were four of us in our group.  Three of us would be in the back with a firefighter while the driver of our group would take several laps around the parking lot. There would be a firefighter driver with us at the passenger side.   He gave us basic instructions, not that much different than driving a truck, just a bit bigger and no rear view mirrors.  There is a monitor mounted on the dashboard that gives the driver a rear view. After the firefighter driver  gave us brief instructions we were ready to go.  As we took off the firefighter turned on the sirens and  lights.  We were ready to get to the scene.  All fire apparatus owned by The Colony Fire Department are equipped with flashing lights that emit a frequency that controls traffic lights to change green along their path of travel. Not all fire departments are equipped with this technology.  Though they have this technology extreme caution must still be taken at intersections.  I have to admit I was a little nervous about this one, I’ve never driven a truck this size.  Making turns was a slight challenge however I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was drive.  Quite fun.

Make sure to visit next week as we suit up for a LIVE BURN with both structure and car fires.  Have a great week.

Highlights of Citizens Firefighter Academy – Week 5

This week we had issues with the weather and changed the schedule.  I called Fire Station No. 3 and one of the firefighters indicated we would meet at Fire Station No. 2.  Instead of  Hose/Hose Evolutions and Driving a Fire Truck we would be doing Search & Rescue and Vehicle Extrication.

Search and Rescue

Firefighter Academy IR CameraWe first suited up in our bunker gear and split up in two groups.  My group did Search and Rescue first.   Our Search and Rescue mission was to find one of the firefighters in their living quarters of the fire station while in the dark. One of the biggest issues that firefighters face while combating interior structural fires is impaired vision.  With the fire burning it”s difficult to see through the thick smoke, no lights with the power off,  and complete darkness. One of the tools that firefighters use is an Infra-Red (IR) thermography camera.  The camera measures temperature difference and heat generated on the  camera screen in real time allowing the firefighter to identify people.

One of theFirefighters Academy firefighters led us through the doors of the fire station.  We  walked into the building with all the lights out…pitch black. He told us some of the pass and feel procedures during search and rescue and then turned on the IR camera. As we slowly walked through the living quarters we felt around and looked under beds. Our journey was quite short as we found our down firefighter in the dark laying on bed watching TV.

Hollywood does no justice to the fire service… its not lights, camera, action. Its more like, I can”t see and how can we make this work in the online casino darkness.

Vehicle Extrication

Firefighter Academy Vehicle ExtricationVehicle Extrication is the safe removal of vehicle parts around an accident victim when conventional methods are not possible.  A totaled car was donated to the Colony Fire Department.  We would be breaking windows and ripping doors off the car simulating rescue operations during vehicle extrication.  The basic vehicle extrication operations consist  of:

  1. Isolating the accident scene
  2. Assess the patients condition
  3. Stabilize the vehicle
  4. Provide an entryway for the first responder or EMT/Paramedic to attend the patient and provide protective blankets to shield the patient from  glass or debris
  5. Extricate the vehicle parts
  6. Remove the patient and transport for medical care
Each of us were given a chance to use a glass break/saw tool on the front and rear windshields. The tool has a carbide tip and saw, allowing to cut through glass.  Normally the fire department will also provide a protective adhesive to minimize glass from shattering onto the patient.
Firefighter Academy Jaws of LifeAnother common tool is the spreader also known as the “Jaws of Life” and patented by Hurst Performance Inc.  The spreaders are used to remove doors, roofs, and any other car parts.  The spreader uses a portable gas-fired motor with a hydraulic oil system.  The size of the spreader and motor vary.  The units are extremely heavy. Each of us had the opportunity to cut door hinges and wire harnessing, eventually removing the doors.  Removal time will vary as all cars are designed different.  One of the new challenges are electric cars; as the electrical power system must be shut-down before firefighters can start extrication.  Failure to shut down the electrical power could potentially electrocute the firefighter.   More reasons to appreciate the fire service.
Please visit next week as we practice with Fire Hose and drive a Fire Truck.   As always if you have any comments or questions please share.  Thanks for stopping by.

Highlights of Citizens Firefighter Academy – Week 4

Firefighter Academy Week 4 – EMS and Careflite Helicopter

Hey everyone!  This weeks class was cool. We started with a presentation of the emergency medical services (EMS) provided by the The Colony Fire Department. All firefighters in The Colony Fire Department are certified or licensed EMS paramedics and dispatched during every emergency call. Compared to other cities in the north Texas region,  The Colony offers some of the most comprehensive EMS Paramedic services. Texas law doesn”t allow non-licensed EMS personnel to practice independently.  The Colony EMS service works with a local medical director physician. The physician essentially extends his license to permit EMS services to provide pre-hospital medical care in the local community under their authorization. To be accepted to the program all Colony firefighter/EMS are required to take basic and advanced classes and must maintain continuing education once a month.

There are three medic bags for first responder medical calls.

  1. The red bag is used for trauma which has splints, bandages, medicine, cardiac medication for CPR,  and one round of medicine for pre-hospital treatment.
  2. The green bag is for airway and breathing including the laryngoscope and endotracheal tubes.
  3. The third bag has a cardiac monitor,defibrillator, 12 lead EKG, and blood pressure. This is very expensive equipment. (5 figures)

In The Colony every emergency call will dispatch an Ambulance with 2 firefighters/EMS plus fire truck with at least 3 personnel, for a total of 5 personnel on the scene.  Leading to the question  “Why is there a fire truck dispatched during a medical call?  The quick answer is “BACK-UP”.  At times if the scene of the accident is critical 3 personnel maybe required to transport the patient to the hospital, 1-driver and 2-attending.  At anytime even during the initial incident they could receive another fire or medical call and need to be ready to respond.

If a patient is in critical condition,  the designated attending paramedic will assess if the patient requires  “golden hour online casino response”. The golden hour is the time from the initial call to when the patient is on the operating table.  The patient has the best chance for recovery/survival if they can meet the golden hour. Type of injury dictates which hospital the patient would need to go.  Time is of essence and unfavorable traffic and road conditions would extend response time.  This is when the services of the Careflite Medical Helicopter would be required.

Careflite is a local medical helicopter transportation services organization in Dallas-Ft. Worth that began in 1979.  They now have five bases within DFW and air-lifted thousands of  patients.   The highlight of the class was the arrival of the Careflite helicopter. The helicopter made several circles around the fire station and landed in an open field behind Fire Station #3.  The landing was smooth and extremely windy.  The helicopter was impressive once on the ground.  This helicopter was based out of Frisco, Texas.  Local citizens also flocked by to check out the helicopter, take pictures, and ask the team questions.

A few things learned about the Careflite Helicopter:

  1. The team consists of a pilot, nurse, and paramedic.
  2. The helicopter is fully equipped with medical equipment and supplies and administered by the nurse and paramedic.
  3. The pilot needs to be aware of  overhead power lines, trees, and any other overhead obstructions.
  4. The nurse and paramedic also keep an eye out for obstructions like balloons,birds, or any other objects that could be in the flight path.
  5. The pilot and aircraft is subject to comply with FAA regulations.
  6. In the past birds have crashed through windshields with pilots managing to land safely.
  7. The helicopter trip from Frisco to The Colony is 5 minutes or less.
One other tip from a firefighter, if you”re sick, make sure to call them and let them come to you.  You”d be surprised the number of people going to he station not feeling well, while the firefighters/EMS are out on call.
Make sure to visit next week as we learn about Search and Rescue and Vehicle Extraction. Please leave a comment and add to the discussion.  Have a great week!!

Highlights of Citizens Firefighter Academy – Week 3


Firefighter Academy Bunker Gear

Week 3 – Protective equipment and self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) – This weeks class at the Citizens Firefighter Academy was going to be more hands on. We’d be fitted with our own gear and use for future classes. A firefighter gave a brief presentation of the protective equipment and self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). I was surprised to learn, the air tank is compressed air and not 100% oxygen. Did you know that oxygen normally makes up only 20-21% of atmospheric air and a minimum 16% oxygen is required to sustain fire? Any oxygen levels lower than 6% would be lethal. The issues with modern manual firefighting in structure fires is most everything we purchase for the home and business has some sort of plastic or composite material. These types of combustibles give off an extraordinary amount of heat and toxic black smoke. When room temperatures start to reach 900°F, a phenomenon known as “flashover” could occur, which is the simultaneous ignition of combustibles in the room. Flashover is lethal. Fire fighters are trained to watch for signs of flashover and must immediately get out of the room. Firefighters are also equipped with a personal alert safety system (PASS) devices. The device uses motion detection to alert if a firefighter is down, If the pass device doesn’t detect motion for 30 seconds an audible alarm would sound and a search and rescue team sent in.

After the presentation we were going to get our first hands on training.  Finally, bunker gear time!!!  There are 11 of us in the class.  Each of us was fitted and issued with boots, pants, jacket, mask, helmet and gloves.  One of the firefighters gave us a demonstration how to quickly suit up. During fire emergency firefighters need to be suited up and roll out of the station in 2 minutes or less.  We all took significantly more than 2 minutes to suit up. Don’t worry we wont be responding to any fire emergency calls. My first impression during the suit up: warm, heavy, sweaty, uncomfortable….., and we didn’t even have the air tanks on yet.  There were only two air tanks w/pass devices as we took forever switching out. My second impression with air tanks and mask: how the hell do they fight fires with all this equipment on?  Its got to be 10x harder in sweltering heat, high adrenaline, and limited visibility.  One could easily lose 5-10 lbs. during fire.  Today, I gained new perspective.   Thank you for your service, Mr. Firefighter.

Make sure to visit next week.  The topics will be emergency medical services (EMS) and a visit from the Careflite medical helicopter.  This will be interesting as the helicopter will land in a field behind the fire station.  Have a great week.

Highlights of Citizens Firefighter Academy – Weeks 1 and 2

The Colony Fire Department - Station 3

Week 1 

I was out of town and missed the first class of the Citizens Firefighter Academy. Great way to start things off. The class had a formal welcome from Fire Chief Scott Thompson with an introduction to fire service history and basic fire science. The primary objective is to educate the local public about the fire department and the services/benefits it provides to the community.

Firefighter Academy

Week 2

The second class I introduced myself and received a binder with course agenda, ID Badge, and t-shirt.  Assistant Chief Carl McMurphy gave a presentation about the fire department organization chart and his role in the fire department. He also indicated that we’d be able to participate in ride-outs with the firefighters. The ride-out would allow us to accompany the fire fighters during emergency calls.  This should be fun.  He advised some days you get multiple calls and some days the trucks never leave the station. It just depends but you need to be ready.  Hoping to schedule a day with some action.  There are three fire stations in the Colony and you could choose to your liking.  In the future, I’ll have a special post for the ride-out.

We had discussions about local fire issues in The Colony and residential sprinklers.  Currently legislation requiring fire sprinklers in new single and multi family residencies is a hot topic throughout the country. There are many benefits to support mandatory requirements for automatic sprinklers in new and multi-family homes however legislation in Texas has struck down the proposal.  The homebuilder and realtor industry have deeper pockets with lobbyists opposing legislation.

Chief McMurphy gave a long list of his responsibilities, they include code enforcement, fire inspections, plan review, maintaining apparatus/equipment, background checks, fire hydrant testing, raising funds, emergency management, and more.  This may not be representative of all fully paid fire departments but gives you an idea that fire department management keeps very busy.

Stay tuned for next week as we get suited up with full  bunker gear and self-contained-breathing-apparatus (SCBA).

If your really interested to become a firefighter, you can visit our friends at www.becomeafirefighterhq.net, they can provide you more details of pursuing a career in the fire service.

Citizens Firefighter Academy – The Colony,Texas

 Automatic sprinkler in HDR

The warehouse fire in Grand Prairie,Texas has kept me wondering. How could a fully sprinklered warehouse with modern fire protection systems and adequate fire department response completely burn down?

Without conducting a complete onsite investigation, there could be many factors. I decided to increase my knowledge of how fully paid local fire departments operate. Lo and behold one of the local fire departments had a Citizens Fire Academy program.  The Colony,Texas Fire Department was accepting applications from their citizens. My timing was perfect as the academy program is only offered once a year. After filling out the application and background checks, I was accepted.  Sweet!!  The program is 8-weeks with classes every Monday from 7:00 to 9:30 PM.

The agenda includes the following topics.

Week 1 – Welcome and introduction to the fire academy
Week 2 – Fire cause and determination and code enforcement
Week 3 – Protective clothing and self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)
Week 4 – Careflite (medical helicopter) and emergency medical services (EMS)
Week 5 – Hose operation and driving
Week 6 – Search and rescue and vehicle extrication
Week 7 – Live online casino burn/family night
Week 8 – Graduation

I”m not sure if I”ll get any answers about the warehouse fire, but at least gain some valuable knowledge and insight. This will be a weekly series.  I may miss a class however I”ll still try have academy posts up once a week.  Also a quick disclaimer, these are my thoughts and opinions and do not represent any thoughts, opinions, expressions or positions on behalf of The Colony or the The Colony Fire Department unless authorized to do so.  Ok, now thats out of the way.  If you have any questions or comments about fire departments, please ask, I”ll do my best to get them answered.