Training through the smoke
Friday, November 22, 2013 6:00 PM
MARINETTE - Imagine you and a team of your close colleagues are working to control a fire, when the unthinkable happens. One of them becomes trapped. The fire rages, you can't see through the smoke, but you know he or she doesn't have much time left before his or her air runs out. What do you do?
Gauges on a Marinette fire truck.
EagleHerald/ Rick Gebhard
The Marinette and Menominee fire departments collaborated last week to train for that scenario - and others - using Rapid Intervention Teams (RIT).
"The training entails going in and searching for a downed or missing firefighter, doing whatever needs to be done to get him out," said Marinette assistant fire chief Jay Heckel. "It's just something we don't train a whole lot on."
According to Mike Powers, also assistant fire chief for the Marinette Fire Department, the Menominee and Marinette fire fepartments collaborate on many projects and fires.
"They're always helping us and we're always there to help them so its a great chance for us all to train together," he said.
The first day of RIT training took place at the Marinette Fire station on Nov. 12. The training included ways to help firefighters who became trapped or injured while fighting fires.
"Basically RIT training is about rescuing the rescuers. It's firefighters saving firefighters when they're in trouble," Powers said.
The second day of training took place Nov. 13 in the old Walmart building at the Pine Tree Mall on Roosevelt Road. Firefighters in full gear took turns teaming up to save one of their own from various possible scenarios.
"We've learned some new things and found some places we're a little deficient in, so this is a good place for it (training)," Powers said. "We're learning a lot and, actually, everybody's been doing really well."
In one such practice scenario, a firefighter was trapped in an old storeroom in a far off corner of the building. A team of four made their way across the main floor, took precautions to open the doors and searched for their fallen comrade.
"We have also taught them how to get themselves out of these situations whenever possible, so you know something is wrong because he can't get himself out," Powers explained.
The entire operation was completed with blacked out masks to simulate heavy smoke and the fallen firefighter's alarm going off, signaling he needed help. A second alarm went off as well, alerting the rescue team that their partner was running low on air in his tank.
"Now, imagine this in real life with everybody's stress and blood pressure going up and hearts pounding," Powers said. "This man is one of them and sometimes, when one of your own is in danger, people are willing to do dangerous things and take risks for that person. That is why we do this training, to give them ways to safely rescue that person."