Firefighters conduct smoke training
Fort Rucker firefighters exit a house where they were conducting simulated smoke training, which included rapid intervention team training for when a fellow firefighter is in need of rescue during a house fire May 10. The RIT team members are equipped with bags containing rescue equipment such as spare air bottles, air masks, rope, tools and anything they might need to rescue fellow firefighters.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 17, 2012) -- Fort Rucker firefighters got back to the basics as they gathered at a house marked for demolition to conduct structural smoke training May 10.

"There is nothing wrong with getting back to basics," said Shayne Brown, assistant chief of training for the Fort Rucker Fire Department. "Our objective this month is to do basic firefighting skills that most of us learned in recruit school. [A lot of which relies on] staying in constant contact and communication with your [crew]."

During the scenario, which included a house completely filled with smoke, firefighters were tasked with completing basic life saving techniques that are used when another firefighter is in distress while on duty, or when they themselves are disoriented by their surroundings, said Jeremy Evett, fire chief for the Fort Rucker Fire Department.

"The benefit of this training is the potential saving of a life of another firefighter," he said. "You're on a limited supply of air and in a dangerous situation, so [the firefighters] need to be able to execute a quick rescue."

The training consisted of different scenarios, according to the fire chief: one where a firefighter declares a mayday over the radio and a rapid intervention team has to go in and rescue the crew member; and one where firefighters must find their way out of the smoky house using only the fire hose to guide them.

Brown and Evett were able to monitor the firefighter's progress using thermal imaging cameras that allowed them to see through the smoke and view the firefighters by the heat of their bodies. This allowed them to make sure the drills were going smoothly throughout the scenarios.

"The purpose of the RIT is that if we have firefighters that go down in the house, it's up to the RIT team to go in and get them out," said Brown. "The RIT team is for firefighter rescue only."

The RIT team carries specialized equipment with them that they carry to help with the rescue such as spare air bottles, air masks, rope, and other tools, he added.

"They have to stay in constant communication with the downed firefighter if possible," said Brown. "It's crucial to finding out where they are and what condition they might be in when they get there."

Each firefighter keeps in constant communication using radios to talk to one another during the training. In the event of a mayday, the commander will have the RIT team and the firefighter in distress to swap to a separate channel in order to maintain clear communication with the rescue effort, he said.

The firefighters were also conducting an exercise called a "spaghetti drill," according to Brown. During the drill, firefighters are disoriented in the smoky house and have come off of their fire hose.

The firefighters are taught beforehand to try and remember the amount of turns they take in a house so that they know how many turns it would take to get back the way they came. Brown said they should paint a mental picture in their head. If they aren't able to find their way back by memory, they can find their way back by using the fire hose and reading the direction of the couplings, he added.

"The way the couplings connect indicates a direction," said Evett. "One way is toward the nozzle and one way is toward the truck. If a firefighter gets lost or disoriented in the smoke, he can follow the hose in the direction of the couplings that leads back to the truck and eventually find his way out."

The name spaghetti drill comes from the hose being wound up like tangled noodles on the ground as firefighters snake across it to find their way out, said the fire chief.

"No matter how long you've been in the fire service, you can't get away from these basic skills," said Brown. "That's why we're trying to get these guys going back to refresh their memories -- [these basic skills] are what's going to save your life."

Page last updated Thu May 17th, 2012 at 00:00