This has been a busy week for the . After participating in the just a few days ago, it’s back to business. The second and fourth divisions made their way to the regional Fire Training Academy in New Haven to test out the new air pack system or SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus), manufactured by SCOTT. As Branford's Training Officer Rick Hart explained, the objectives of this training day included testing the accountability system as well as executing search, rescue and evacuation drills (also called evolutions).
Hart was just 16 years old when he started volunteering at the Hamden Fire Department. For the last two years of his ten year run with the Branford Fire Department, Hart has been working as a training officer. Along with being a professional firefighter, he is also a trained paramedic. Throughout the day, Hart continued stressing the importance of practice when it came to working together as a team, being effective and staying out of harm’s way in a fire emergency situation. Familiarity with the equipment and protocol is essential to the teams’ ability to move quickly, emphasized Hart. In a real house fire, with the temperature rising up to 2000 F, speed is crucial during the first five to 10 minutes of the mission, especially when rescue is required. Hart mentioned ruefully, that often times, the shifts are understaffed and the medic unit ends up helping with advancing the line into a burning building.
As Hart, Deputy Chief Tom Mahoney, and Captain Tim Judd were addressing the crew regarding their goals for the day, a shroud of seriousness came over the faces of the firefighters. They looked ready for anything! Nearby there was a small truck with hay and wooden pallets, used for fuel. CT Warehouse has been donating these pallets to the Branford Fire Department for years. To begin each evolution, the firemen hosed down stacks of hay and pallets and threw them into the two-story gray cinder block building which served as training ground. When the hay and wood was set on fire, clouds of smoke started billowing out of each door and window. It was impressive to see how one by one, without hesitation, the firefighters disappeared into the fuming blackness. Instead of being illuminated by the flames, the inside of the burning building is usually completely dark. “It’s not like Hollywood movies,” remarks Hart with a chuckle.
The piercing sounds of a personal safety system (or “pass device”) relentlessly accompanied each fireman. The pass device is hooked into the SCBA and turns on automatically. It’s designed to monitor body motion, and send out an alert in case the wearer is injured or trapped and can’t move. After 30 seconds of immobility the pass device’s alarm is activated, reaching full volume in one minute. So once in full gear, to avoid sounding the alarm, the firemen had to keep moving–or do a little shimmy every 30 seconds!
With the facilities in Branford, access to training will be easier. The new training tower will allow the department to add ladder rescue, confined space rescue, and endurance exercises to the training regimen. Hart explained that the Department is planning to conduct the evolutions again later this month with the first and third divisions.
Taking part in the evolutions were also several volunteer fire fighters, like Joe Massey. At 17 years old, he has already completed the interior fire training program and has three years experience as a volunteer fireman. Massey is waiting impatiently until his 18th birthday next month in order to continue his live fire training and become a professional firefighter. While he may still have a lot to learn, one thing seems to come naturally to Massey and his fellow firefighters–courage.