I’m four weeks into firefighter training, and things are starting to get physical.
We’ve been taught how to properly don (and doff) all our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). There’s a bit of art and a bit of science to this process. And of course you can’t take all day to “get dressed” – I believe we have to do it in under two minutes to pass the final test. (I’m not there yet! But I will say this: I cover every step methodically. I’d rather take an extra 30 seconds to make sure I’m fully protected before charging into smoke and fire!!)
[Add the helmet & gloves and I look pretty much like my classmates here!]
The trickiest part is the SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus). It has to be used correctly to breathe safely in fires.
My department got brand-new SCBA in May, so I’ve got the “coolest” harness and oxygen tank in the class. However, it comes with a drawback: it’s also heavier! It’s a 45-minute tank vs the 30-minute tanks my classmates have. It’s also bigger – so the photos below where we’re trying to crawl through a small space? It’s gonna be a bit harder for me!
The first time I put the face mask on was a couple weeks ago, when I was “fit tested” for it. It was a bit unnerving fastening this thing to my face (I’m still getting used to it). The test involves wearing the mask while hooked up to a special computer/monitor and doing tasks like moving your head from side to side and up/down (like you would if you were looking for something) and bending/crouching repeatedly, etc.
So you’ve got 40 or more extra pounds of gear on you, and then you do things like below… and much more yet to come!
To the left is a training box that has wires and chains hanging down inside it, simulating what we might experience in a house. The object is to get through this box without getting our tank, helmet or other gear hung up on wires… or more precisely, how to untangle ourselves when we do! It’s not easy, and the space can make you feel a bit claustrophobic.
At right: Ever have to knock through a wall? I’m sure we’ll get to that part! But for now, they had us maneuvering our body + 40 pounds of gear (thankfully we didn’t have to wear the face mask) through a width typical to the space between wall studs (16 inches).
Because (as you can imagine) tanks get pretty banged up during this exercise, they had old (out of service) tanks for us to use. Due to my afore-mentioned larger tank, I was more than happy to use their smaller ones!