Recently, Brentwood Fire and Rescue was asked to host and teach a recruit class for a number of Williamson County Volunteer Fire Departments. The class will last a total of 64 hours and span a variety of firefighting basics to prepare these volunteers to serve their community. Because these firefighters often have separate full time jobs, attending a typical 400 hour recruit school (like the one that BFR recruits attend) is often impossible. To help make training more attainable, Brentwood Fire and Rescue makes its training grounds and instructors available to help prepare these firefighters to face the challenges associated with emergency response.
You have to crawl before you can walk, so proper donning and doffing of turnout gear and SCBA is a part of the curriculum. Here, a BFR instructor ensures that the equipment is put on in the proper sequence and that no skin is left exposed. Firefighters must be able to fully and properly put on all their equipment and be ready to enter a burning building in under 2 minutes. This is often called a ‘2 minute drill’, and is one of the first challenges a new firefighter must conquer.
These firefighters will learn more than just looking the part; the class picks up speed and other topics are introduced quickly. Sometimes the process can best be described as trying to drink from a firehose. Lots of information will be coming at you quickly, and you have to do your part to absorb as much of it as you can. Firefighters must know more than just to put the wet stuff on the red stuff. They must know the chemistry behind why the fire does what it does as well as how it will react to what they do. Firefighters must know how to properly size up a building so they can anticpate what they might find inside. Physics plays a role in learning which tool is appropriate for which task. Topics such as municipal water systems and hose manipulation will also be covered. By the end of the course these recruits will have a solid base to build a career’s worth on knowledge on.
It isn’t all math and science though, there is plenty of gym class as well. Firefighting is a very physical job, so learning to work with 75 pounds of equipment on is also an important skill to develop. Firefighters must become adept at working in the dark and feeling their way around. Here a recruit learns how to properly search a building and to navigate obstacles in the dark. It is vital that a search be equal parts thorough and speedy. During class, firefighters learn some of the tricks of the trade, as well as potential pitfalls. Experienced instructors can throw a few curveballs at the class to reinforce the lessons being taught. If the recruits miss a simulated victim, they can be taken back into the room and shown where it was and why they missed them. These are basic skills that will be used on nearly every fire call they run throughout their career.
As the class progresses, the challenges will become more complex. Initially, victim removal will be simply a matter of dragging them to a door. Once the recruits demonstrate that they can find and safely remove a person in distress, the difficulty is increased by introducing ladders, windows, stairs, doors, or in this case, tight quarters. These firefighters are learning the hard way that technique trumps brute strength and that by working together they can make a complex task much simpler.