So I’m 12 weeks into my fire academy with only 2 weeks left to go. I know that I left my last short story on a major cliff hanger, but it has been so long since I last posted on here I felt it was more necessary to update you on all I’ve been up to.
The fire academy has taught me an enormous variety of new skills. I learned how to operate a chainsaw for the first time in my life, and a few days ago I had the opportunity to carve a five-cut hole in a roof over a working fire (a technique referred to as vertical ventilation). I’ve become comfortable using an SCBA (self-containing breathing apparatus), which is what firefighters don in order to breathe inside a burning structure.
In order to prepare us for the worst, part of our training required us to crawl through confined spaces wearing our turn-outs (firefighter outfits) as well as our SCBAs. One area was known as the confidence course.
This space was basically a trailer that is pitch black once they shut the door on you. The interior is a maze from hell – one that includes ladders and unexpected drop-offs. In order to pass through it successfully, we had to squeeze through narrow openings, navigate through total and complete darkness, and climb up and down ladders and slides. This is NOT a drill for the claustrophobic.
One confined space drill that was much worse than the confidence trailer was the X-box (no, not like the video game console… not at all).
The X-box is rectangular box of wood with wires running through it everywhere. We were required to crawl through this confined space wearing our turnouts and SCBAs with a hood covering our eyes in seven minutes or less. At one point when I was passing through, the wires prevented me from moving forward or backward. I began breathing frantically and felt like a trapped rat. While this was going on, one of our instructors was yelling at me to give him a proper LUNAR (Location, Unit, Name, Air, Resources). A lunar is the distress call a firefighter gives when they are trapped in an environment with an immediate threat to life and health. Here’s an example:
Firefighter: Mayday mayday mayday!
Incident Commander: Clear all traffic for emergency broadcast.
Firefighter: This is firefighter Watt with interior attack. I’m entangled in wires on division 1, alpha side of the building. I’m down to my last quarter of air, and I need a Ric team with wire cutters to extricate me.
In the next few weeks I’ll be able to post the academy video for you all to see some of the footage for yourselves. I’m really happy I’ve had the opportunity to acquire all of this knowledge, as it is not only preparing me for a career in the fire service, but I also have a wealth of personal experience that I can use in future action/adventure stories. I won’t be as busy as I have been, so I should be able to post on here more frequently.
Oh yeah, one more thing – I have a new girlfriend : ). Say hello to Riley!
- Thomas M. Watt