By Jennifer Walleman
Fort Leavenworth Lamp – June 30, 2016
Fire Lt. Chris Coughlin races to put on his gear during a relay race. Photos by Prudence Siebert.
Fire Lt. Chris Coughlin races to put on his gear while Lt. Stephen Kidwell observes and helps keep time during a relay race.
Firefighter William Stone climbs up and down a ladder three times, supported by Lt. Chris Coughlin, while Fire Inspector Jamison Amparan and Lt. Stephen Kidwell keep time and firefighter Courtney Risser readies to begin the hose drag portion of the relay race.
Fort Leavenworth Fire and Emergency Services observed Safety Stand Down Week June 19-25 at Fire Station No. 2 on Biddle Boulevard.
Safety Stand Down is a joint initiative between the National Volunteer Fire Council and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. This year’s theme was “The First Five Minutes: Stretching the Initial Hose Line, Putting Water on the Fire.”
“What they mean by the first five minutes is structural firefighting and what you are supposed to be doing in the first five minutes on scene safety-wise, scene size-up, what water you should be using, specific nozzles, tactics that you should be utilizing, your 360 size-up, how to read smoke, locating the scene of the fire before you even make entrance, things of that nature,” said Edgar Guerra, assistant chief of training.
Activities revolved around that theme with both personal and professional training for firefighters who were still ready to respond to emergency calls.
“Safety stand down is that,” Guerra said. “The whole week is about looking in on ourselves, evaluating ourselves and our safety culture and learning from that and seeing what we can do better. There’s always room for improvement.”
The first two days involved two classes offered by Army Community Service on stress in the fire service and tactics to help alleviate it and financial readiness.
“One of our biggest things is stress so that’s one of the things we hit on this year was how to alleviate stress,” Guerra said.
The third day, Guerra concentrated on the importance of the first five minutes on the scene and used training videos from a series of experiments between the New York Fire Department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Underwriters Laboratories that involved setting fire to 20 abandoned townhouses on Governors Island, N.Y., lining them with detection equipment and gases, monitoring the flow of the fire, and testing tactics for managing it. The third day also featured a class taught by Christian Howell, assistant chief of fire prevention, on safety culture in the fire department, which included fighting complacency.
On the fourth and fifth days, teams competed in the Firefighter Challenge where they participated in six different common service activities including a structural firefighter relay and activities that tested their knowledge and skills on driving and operating a pumper and EMS, hazardous materials, wildland and rescue responses.
During the relay, firefighters raced each other in a variety of tasks including putting on firefighting gear and self-contained breathing apparatus; shouldering, carrying placing and climbing up and down a 14-foot roof ladder; hammering a hydro sled, which is a device that mimics ventilating a roof with an ax; dragging a rolled hose 100 feet, and carrying a 180-pound dummy.
Guerra said the challenge was a fun activity that included tasks they work on every day.
“The challenge is just beating their fellow guys,” Guerra said.
The final day was the emergency vehicle operations course where firefighters took turns driving the fire trucks through cones, refreshing their training on the dimensions of the truck, turning radiuses and more.
“That is so important because these trucks are so big, the risk is high driving on these small roads,” Guerra said. “Fort Leavenworth has some of the most narrow and small roads you’ll ever drive on. These trucks are not smaller, they are bigger and just as big as any fire department in the nation. It’s tough. We try to train a lot in the vehicles. Every safety stand down we are always looking for ways to do the vehicle operations course.”
Firefighter William Stone participated in the ladder portion of the Firefighter Challenge. Stone has been with the department for a little more than a month and previously was a firefighter in Greece for the U.S. Navy.
He said the first five minutes of a call are crucial for firefighters.
“For us, that’s when we have the best chance of saving lives inside the building and making access and doing our job,” Stone said. “The quicker we can get into the building and the quicker we can get there to see what we have with our size-up, the quicker we can take actions to either save life or property within the building.”
Firefighter Nick Jerrel has only been with the Fort Leavenworth Fire Department for a month but has been working as a firefighter for the last 11 years. He said every day on the job provides something different.
“Every call is unique,” Jerrel said. “They are all different in their own respect.”
Jerrel said that Safety Stand Down Week was an opportunity to reiterate information and skills better preparing them for emergency situations. The department received several calls during the week’s training.
“That’s the job,” he said. “That’s why you do it, right?”
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