First things first, we learned about the equipement. There is a lot of firefighting gear, and we had to be able to gear up in under a minute, and then had one extra minute to put on our breathing apparatus, complete with separate air tank to give us a flow of fresh air.
We also learned the different types of fire, what fire extinguisher to use on it and why. We actually spent a whole day on the classroom learning, with a brief bit at the end for finding the right size gear, and practicing putting it all on.
We were back to class at the crack of dawn... well, 6am is pretty darned close to the crack of dawn I'd say! All in the hopes of getting the fire-fighting practical out of the way before the day got too hot.
Once we were all geared up, the first exercise was saving "Manny" (the 75kg/165lbs dummy) from a smoky room. It was just a smoke machine to simulate, but we still had our SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) up and running. I was paired up with Toni(Australia) for this exercise, you can see her behind me as I open the door. I had to guide us along the side, using the back of my hand to feel the way, and she was supposed to keep a hand on my shoulder, and search the floor for Manny with her feet. Once we found Manny, we needed to drag him to the door, one person dragging him and the other guiding their friend in the right direction. We each took a turn. Manny is heavy. Props to firefighters who lift the real thing instead of the weak drag across the floor that we were doing!
Here's the group waiting their turns to go in, and me sitting on the bench after I finished. You can see the clouds in these pictures too. We started out with a nice cool, cloud-covered morning that swiftly became a full-out thunderstorm moving rapidly towards us. So for safety's sake we headed back to the classroom to wait out the lighting.
Here are Annika (Germany), Candace (US), and Sophie (Switzerland) modelling the sexy suspenders in the classroom.
The storm passed us over with a large dump of rain in a little over an hour, and then it was safe to head back to the field. Let me tell you, it is NOT easy to climb back into those vans fully geared up! This is me with Seunghyeon and his wife Hoejung (South Korea) behind me and Margot (Australia) beside me.
Once everyone had a chance to do that, our group moved over to the gas/propane fire. This time we were getting to try out the hose.
I'm not actually sure who this is, but we each had a chance to man the nozzle. We were in a group of four people, with three holding the hose and one directing the nozzle. There's a lot of power in those hoses!!
Next activity was a gas/fuel fire (on top of water), in a drum. We all took a turn spraying the dry chemical fire extinguisher on it. It was really obvious when someone used the wrong technique with the fire extinguisher, and the fire would flare up even stronger!!
And finally, we were ready for the big finish, entering a container with a Class A fire (wood or other ash-producing combustible), fully geared up and using a fire hose to put it out.
They were monitoring the temperature, and thanks to a strong wind adding O2 to the fire, the temp at 6ft height was 400C. At 2-3ft up it was around 200C I think. It was immediately obvious when you entered the container that you needed to duck down to avoid the worst of the heat. It's amazing what a difference it can make! Also, thanks to the smoke, it was almost impossible to see until you ducked down low.
Here I am, helping to hold the hose for my partner, as we enter the burning container. We each took a turn spraying water on the fire, and watching the effect of the different techniques.
Whoever wanted got a cold wet towel to help cool off after finishing in the container. Candace (US) found the towel a little cool for her liking!
And a final thanks to Kelly (Switzerland) who happily used 6 different cameras that day and helped us all to keep a record of the day we faced a fire and triumphed!