ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Illinois -- (Oct. 28, 2017) Moline area elected officials braved colder weather, fire, heights, and smoke as they learned about firefighting in an event Oct. 28 at the firefighting training center at Rock Island Arsenal.

Conducted by the Moline Fire Department, the outreach effort was designed to provide an insight into firefighting operations, according to Moline interim Fire Chief Jeff Snyder.

"It lets them see a bit into what we do so that when we have to come to them with a request for equipment or additional facilities, they have more foundation," Snyder said.

Participating in the event were: Illinois 72nd District Rep. Mike Halpin; Illinois 71st District Rep. Tony McCombie Moline; Dick Potter, Moline City Council; Mike Waldron, Moline City Council; J.D. Schulte, Moline director of public works; Public works division city employee Sarah Mark; and Courtney Nelson, Moline City finance department; and Ken LeMaster, a member of the Moline Fire Department Second Alarmers volunteer group.

The Saturday event provided training in extracting a victim from a burning building, using a fire hose, dismantling a wrecked car using the "jaws of life" and other emergency equipment, rappelling, and using ropes to descend from a high structure. Snyder said all are part of the basic techniques learned by firefighters in their official training.

The training is realistic, although it was abbreviated, said Snyder.

"It's a glimpse of what we do, using the real techniques we use," he said.

Halpin said the experience helped him understand what firefighters do.

"I thought it was a good introduction to what firefighters go through," Halpin said. "Everything happens very fast. I can't imagine doing the things we learned to do with the speed they need to be done in a real fire."

McCombie said the training was interesting. "My husband is a volunteer firefighter. Until you've done it you don't realize the weight of the gear they're moving around in. These men and women have to maintain their fitness just for to wear the equipment."

She also praised the Rock Island Arsenal training facility. "It's very complete. The fire house or smoke house was large enough that we could do different things on different levels, and we could do everything in the one facility from CPR to working on the cars to rappelling."

Firefighters showed the trainees how to use a fire axe to let the air out of car tires, so they can't explode during an incident; how to use a spring-loaded punch to fracture a car's window to extract an injured party, and how to use multiple settings for different circumstances using a fire hose.

"What gets everyone excited is going into the smoke house, where they experience a bit of the heat and the lack of visibility in a real fire. That's what makes the Arsenal's facility very valuable, it's a regional resource for firefighters," Snyder said. "The other one is rappelling. When they're suspended from a rope 30 feet in the air, you see a lot of smiles."

McCombie said rappelling was something she'd done before, when her father had been a Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor, but she found stepping over the railing to begin slightly daunting. "I'm not super comfortable with heights. It's different when you're a kid, so for me that first step over the railing was a challenge," she said.

Halpin praised the Arsenal facility. "I can see how valuable it is. It's a good place for regional firefighters to go to get training."