The Ceres Fire Department hosted a four-day training class last week designed to train professional firefighters on how to train fire ground survival to other firefighters.
The class was funded through an $80,000 federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security. Ceres is the 18th agency in the United States to receive the Assistance to Firefighters Grant.
Training was offered Tuesday through Thursday at Ceres Fire Station #4, which has been closed temporarily as a way to fund extra firefighters. Attending the training were 24 firefighters from Ceres Fire, Oakland Fire, Sacramento Fire, Modesto Fire, Patterson Fire, Manteca Fire, and Stanislaus Consolidated Fire while instructors came from fire departments in Sacramento, Los Angeles City and County, Phoenix, Libertyville, Ill. and Prince Georges County Fire in Maryland.
"Fire ground survival is a term we use to describe situations where we are no longer rescuers of civilians," explained Ceres Fire Captain Rich Scola, "we are now in a situation where we need to rescue ourselves."
Approximately 100 firefighters die on the job each year, said Scola. The training is an attempt to make a firefighters' job safer.
Each time a firefighter dies, a report is filed with the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), which analyzes what went wrong and makes recommendation on how to prevent future similar events.
"They pick some of the ones that are common denominators in the line of duty deaths and they've incorporated those lessons into about a dozen lessons they're learning."
Training used a trailer which allowed firefighters to learn how to lower themselves to safety from a single- or second-story window by use of a fire hose. Other props simulated walls whereby firefighters had to chop through wallboard to escape from a burning room into a non-burning room and crawl through studs spaced 16 inches apart. In some exercises, firefighters were training to remove their breathing apparatus first and push it through the opening between the metal studs. In another exercises, firefighters had to navigate their way with cellophane inside their mask to simulate smoke. Some firefighters became temporarily snagged by their air tanks and were instructed on rotating to get free.
Another prop simulated a hallway filled with wires - they fall from attics when ceilings collapse - to teach firefighters how to disentangle.
"There's been many line-of-duty firefighter deaths because they get stuck and then they run out of air and suffocate and die or they get burned over because they couldn't get out in time. There's very specific techniques how to get out of it and get through it."
"They're doing the skill, they're watching the skill and teaching the skill," said Scola. "A lot of this stuff they've done, to a degree, it's just tweaking some of the techniques to do it safer. Some of it's new to some of them. Some of it's kind of repetitive; they've done this before. Most of them are veteran firefighters. Most of them are involved in training in their agency to some degree."
The training was rough on the firefighters who sweated inside their protective turnouts.
"It's like a hot summer day in there," said Scola on the second day of training. "They're sweating. These guys are beat up. They're bruised, they're bleeding, they're sore. They were popping aspirin last night."