BLACKFOOT – The College of Eastern Idaho (CEI) provides firefighters throughout the state the opportunity to train in adverse situations that mimic real scenarios that they may experience during an actual structural fire. Each of the three trailers that are checked out from CEI come equipped with their own specific make-up to provide real-life training.
The training tower at the Blackfoot Fire Department on Wednesday provided a three-story building with confined spaces, sprinkler systems, sand pipe systems, and multiple escape options. During their training, the firefighters were geared as if heading into a live fire and following the guidelines of all previous trainings.
Prior to scaling the tower and starting their victim recovery, they checked the working status of all of their gear. They use an alarm that tells them that they are low on oxygen that sounds like a classic alarm clock bell as well as Personal Alert Safety Systems or PASS alarms. PASS alarms are used by firefighters to indicate when a firefighter has not moved for some time. They register movement and send off a loud chirp that is at high enough decibels that even during a blaze, fellow firefighters can hear it.
During their downed firefighter training, Arnie Christensen used his halligan (tool used to pry) to check for structural safety before climbing through the window to his comrade. After checking soundness of the structure, he climbed through the window and began the processes needed to rescue a downed firefighter being portrayed by Michael Jackman. Christensen checked his respirator to make sure that the downed man was receiving oxygen and upon discovering that he was breathing, Christensen wrapped a safety harness around him. Just as if they were in a real scenario, they use teamwork to perform their duties almost flawlessly. As Christensen wrapped "the victim" up, his air lines sprung a leak. Christensen hurried to fix the problem, and upon completion, they were able to complete the rescue.
As this is taking place, the information for this specific drill was provided; explaining that they perform this specific drill after a fire in Denver, Colorado, where a firefighter was trapped in a confined space in a hoarder's home. The firefighter died because a suitable rescue was not feasible. Blackfoot, as well as fire departments across the country, perform this specific drill to prevent a tragedy like that one from happening again.
Following the victim recovery, they conducted a series of escapes through the window as if the fire was burning at too high of temperature for them to remain inside safely. A few of the firefighters in attendance went through the process as if they were evacuating, climbing through the window head-first. As they reached a point where their entire bodies were outside of the tower, they swung themselves around in efforts to place their feet below them. Once they performed this act, they then slid down the sides of the ladder to the bottom making a quick escape so that the next firefighter inside could get out. One-by-one the firefighters escaped the overheated scenario effortlessly.
Each of the firefighters were in full gear; from helmets, to air, to coats, pants, and boots, totaling nearly 100-pounds of extra gear on each of them.
Blackfoot Fire Department conducts drills and scenarios to be prepared for any adversity thrown before them. They take it seriously and they take pride in their skill. The training they received Wednesday was shared that evening with explorers and volunteer firefighters in efforts to better prepare them as well.