Several firefighters with local and rural fire protection districts have been participating in weekend training exercises in preparation for final testing held Saturday, March 22.
Agencies represented at the training included Bly Rural Fire Protection District, Thomas Creek/Westside Rural Fire Protection District, Lakeview Fire Department and New Pine Creek/Willow Ranch Rural Fire Protection District.
The training session was led by certified trainer Daniel Tague, who was additionally assisted by Mark Suba.
Thomas Creek/Westside Rural Fire Protection District sponsored the training, which was hosted by the Klamath-Lake Training Association.
The training included extensive activities that included a simulated two-man blind crawl into a building that mimicked potential hang-ups and obstacles, as well as a simulated rescue under similar circumstances.
Clad in full turnouts and breathing apparatus, the firefighters would commence entrance into a simulated building fire site at a crawl. In this case, the simulated site was at the Lakeview Interagency Office, located just south of town.
The candidates entered the building two at a time with a firehose, in a full mock simulation of an actual scenario. Along the way, challenges and obstacles would serve to compare with what they could expect to experience in an actual fire, and thereby learn vital skills in order to overcome these challenges.
Tables and panels defined the crawlspace route, and a life-size mannequin served as a rescue victim.
The training served to prepare firefighter trainees for actual situations and learn their limitations for the sake of their own safety. Factors that may come into play include feelings of claustrophobia, as well as running short on oxygen.
“This is not a timed event,” Suba told the trainees after they’d signaled they’d maxxed themselves out. “We’re glad that you let us know as opposed to ‘I think I can get out,’ and boom, you collapse.”
The 64-hour program spanned a total of four weeks, starting on March 1, and was held weekly on Saturdays and Sundays. Activities included those of a timed nature, such as donning personal protective equipment (PPEs) and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).
Classroom training was also an integral part of the program, supplemented by practical hands-on activity.
Trainees ranged in age from 28 to 71 years.
“You’re never too old to learn,” said Thomas Creek/Westside RFPD representative Pam Bertagna.
Among the trainees were Jose Castillo and Travis Baker, both with the Bly Rural Fire Protection District.
Baker noted that the simulated challenges proved to be formidable in preparing for an actual fire situation.
“If this is a real situation, what are you going to do?” he said, noting time is of the essence with a limited oxygen supply and a victim waiting inside a burning building.
Castillo noted that keeping a cool head is crucial in such circumstances, and the practice helps develop that needed calmness. Communications with one’s partner along with practical rescue techniques are vital for a successful rescue.
“It adds that stress you’re going to encounter in that actual situation,” he said. “It’s just that training is practice, practice; practice makes perfect.”