Mar 25, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
When Cazenovia Fire Department volunteer firefighters went into the first floor of a burning house in Fenner on March 12, they did so in full gear, including respirators and air tanks, with fire tools in their hands, ready to battle whatever came their way. The fire that started in the chimney and was whipped into a frenzy by 25-mile-per-hour winds ultimately engulfed the roof and attic, making the structure unstable and forcing a firefighter evacuation and an “exterior attack” with water hoses.
Although the Cazenovia firefighters — with mutual aid assistance from Erieville, Morrisville, Smithfield, New Woodstock, Lincoln, Chittenango Manlius fire departments — were unable to battle the blaze from inside the house, when they went in they were trained, capable and prepared to do their job — the payoff of the department’s constant drilling and training of its members, according to CFD Chief Nick Enders.
One such instructional exercise occurred last Wednesday, March 19, when 18 department volunteer members went through Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (air-packs) training while completing an obstacle course set up inside the department’s truck bay.
“We’re trying to imitate scenarios that we may encounter inside a structure,” Enders said. “This also allows the officers to see what the guys are capable of and where they may need some further training.”
The course, which the firefighters traversed on hands and knees, forced them to fight through an entanglement simulator (crawling through a wood structure with wires and strings hanging down as if a ceiling had collapsed); removing their air tanks and pushing them through a small tunnel space; crawling over and under the beams of a wooden ceiling frame; going up and down ladders; properly “breaching” through wall studs (if the room is on fire, the exit is blocked and firefighters must go through a wall to escape); and dragging a rescue dummy about 25 feet to safety.
For the training, the environment is made to simulate a real inside scenario: the lights are dim and often flickering, there are loud noises and thumps, the sucking sounds of active respirators in use, as well as fire alarms and constant radio chatter.
“There’s a lot of training involved before anyone goes into a burning building,” said Captain Shain Emerson. “This [obstacle course] hones the skills in what might happen in a worst-case scenario. It really gets the blood pumping and the adrenaline going.”
As the firefighters made their way through the course — including four new members and two Cazenovia High School juniors — they were coached by department officers who offered training and tips on how best to handle each obstacle.
The obstacle course is designed to test endurance, stamina, breathing technique all while practicing many basic firefighter tasks and escape and survival techniques. The course is definitely hard and taxing for all. Those that say otherwise would be less than honest,” said CVFD interior firefighter/ EMT Tim Ahern. “The officers do a great job of setting up the obstacle course, providing guidance and encouragement for all participants and create a great learning environment to practice many techniques we hope are never required for firefighter survival or escape. Everyone who participated had a very strenuous workout while gaining confidence in our ability to perform tasks in a stressful environment.”
Cazenovia High School junior Riley Lloyd, who participated in his first training activity in full gear, said the course was definitely challenging.
“After I finished the obstacle course, I could not believe the physical exhaustion and perspiration caused by only one lap through. It was very hot inside my gear just from the training, so I can’t imagine a similar situation in a live fire,” he said. “I have worn the SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) a couple times before, but I have never actually worn it for a long period of time, or while physically exerting myself, which was quite a difference.”
Lloyd, who is 16, is at the beginning of what will be a two-year training period if he decides he wants to be an interior firefighter, which junior volunteers cannot do until they reach age 18.
“I originally started to think about joining the fire department a couple months after Charlie Thompson’s accident,” said Lloyd, who was on the Thompson accident scene as a CAVAC Student Corps member. “I really saw the fire department in action, and realized it’s not all just about putting out fires. I was accepted to the Cazenovia Hook & Ladder Company in the beginning of January, and just like when I first started at CAVAC, I was hooked instantly. Being a junior firefighter has really opened my eyes to a whole other aspect of the emergency services and community services that I will, without a doubt, continue to do throughout my life.”
The participation of the four new department members and the two junior volunteers at the training session was a positive occurrence for the all-volunteer department, which is actively seeking new recruits. Last year, the department created a new committee to focus on and improve the organization’s recruitment efforts. Since then, the committee has been manning recruitment tables during community events, posting signs and flyers, preparing articles for publication and may even go door-to-door starting in the spring.
“It’s amazing how many people come up to us and think we’re a paid staff; we’re strictly volunteer,” Enders said. “It is addicting. Once you do it, you regret not having done it right out of school.”
To learn more about the Cazenovia Fire Department or about becoming a volunteer member, visit cazfd.com, call 655-2834 or stop in to the department on meeting nights, 7 p.m. every Wednesday.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.