Leaving no man behind was the goal of a training session Friday for firefighters with the Red Oak Fire and Rescue.
In staged scenarios, firefighters worked together to remove a team member who had become trapped or immobilized from a building.
“There is a big difference between moving an ordinary person and a firefighter. A normal person is just all one piece and a firefighter has anywhere where from 20 to 50 extra pounds of bulk equipment,” Capt. Jason Harris said.
“Equipment like bunker gear, air packs and tools can make it a lot more challenging because that gear creates more friction and more obstacles,” he said.
The first drill the group practiced was to move a downed firefighter to safety by utilizing the safety equipment on that person. Before any move takes place, a visual evaluation is made by looking to see if there are any obstructions or injuries to the firefighter. The Rapid Intervention Team also looks to see if the downed firefighter is unconscious or if he or she is moving.
Once an evaluation is made, firefighters take the strap on the air pack and wrap it around the downed firefighter’s leg and re-buckle it so that it acts as a handle. As part of the exercise, wood beams were placed along the path to act as debris in the path of an exit.
“This drill is teaching firefighters that it is simply not just a dragging. It is also about lifting. Being in a crouched position or being on your knees can be quite a challenge,” Harris said.
“To be able to lift a downed firefighter in this type of scenario is a challenge because you can’t use your lower body and your legs. A firefighter with all of his gear on can weigh around 230 pounds,” he said.
The next technique performed by the department is called the Denver Drill. First done by the Denver Fire Department, the drill teaches firefighters how to rescue their own who have gotten trapped in a confined space. The drill allows two firefighters to be able to enter a confined space through an exterior window. Then, through a series of lifts and movements, firefighters are able to move the incapacitated person out of the window and to safety.
“This is really a team-building confidence drill. It can be used if the structure is two or three stories high,” Harris said.
“They will still be able to take the downed firefighter out of the window. Then they will safely move them with the help of others to a ladder or bucket,” he said.
The third drill that was trained was the wall breach. In this situation a firefighter has become lost or trapped and is down. When this happens, his or her personal safety system or pass emits a sound. Others are able to hear that sound and make entry through a nearby wall.
“It could take an extended period of time to reach that person if we went around, but breaching right at the point we hear the pass or hear the firefighter knocking on the wall saves time,” he said.
Tools utilized in the process vary according to the building material. If it’s drywall, sheetrock or plywood, tools like a fireman’s ax or a sledgehammer can be used. Materials like steel or reinforced aluminum could require prying tools such as Halligan Bars.
For the training session’s last test, all of the different techniques had to be utilized as part of one large simulation. An abandoned restaurant was piped full of smoke via two fog machines, with firefighters given an opportunity to demonstrate their newly-acquired skills in rescuing a dummy set up in simulation of a downed comrade.
This latest series of training classes for Red Oak Fire and Rescue concludes Wednesday.