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.

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