In the plumes of smoke lingering Thursday morning outside the Cartersville-Bartow County Joint Training Facility in Emerson, Cartersville Fire Department Lt. Hagan Champion’s crackling Mayday call sent crews scurrying into action.
As part of the department’s Firefighter Safety and Survival course, Champion and CFD Capt. Johnny Frasier created training on the “location and extrication” of two firefighters trapped inside an enclosed basement staircase of the two-story structure after a floor collapse. Using drywall and lumber donated by Home Depot and Wood’s Fabrication, respectively, the pair constructed a simulated floorplan and wall encasing the staircase, which crews used axes and halligans to breach for removal of two trapped firefighter dummies.
“When we respond to a structure fire, ... we get faced with all kind of obstacles,” Frasier said. “First of all, we’re in an environment that is unknown to us. We could be high heat, low visibility, whatever. Once you get inside the structure, you could have a floor burn out from under you, or you could have a roof or ceiling collapse down on you.”
Conducted over three days, the course focused on the well-being of CFD crews.
“We always concentrate on rescuing other people,” Frasier said after Tuesday’s session. “This is about rescuing us.”
Once offered through the state, the economic crisis put a damper on offerings at the higher level.
“The safety and survival class used to be offered at the state, and of course, like I said, it got cut due to budget cutbacks,” Frasier said. “What we are trying to do here is get a good program started, and if we can enhance on this, eventually, maybe we can offer it as a regional class through the fire academy.”
<*p(0,9,0,12.1,0,0,g(P,S))>While working to have the course approved through the state, CFD firefighters offered positive feedback to instructors.
“They love it. They say it is some of the best training they’ve ever did. They get to actually get in their gear, they get hot. They’re having to work but they get to think. They get to plan their own strategies,” Frasier said. “Of course, we’re out here to critique and we’re out here to learn, but we’re not out here to criticize them. I mean, we’re not out here to say, ‘No, you did that wrong,’ as long as they don’t get hurt and they’re doing everything safe and we’re operating under our SOPs.”
CFD Training Chief Ronnie Cowart praised Frasier and Champion for their efforts toward conducting the extensive training.
Noting that each fire call is different, Cowart said equipping firefighters with the skills to make the necessary decisions at a scene is essential.
“No two fires are the same. No two houses are the same. No two situations are the same. What we are trying to teach the guys is, use your situational awareness and make the decisions based on the particulars of that incident,” he said. “You have to be [fluid]. That’s the reason we are doing this training as well. We’re wanting to make sure that we have our guys prepared as much as possible for any situation they get into. However, because of the, as you mentioned, it being a fluid situation or a dynamic situation, you can’t always prepare for everything, so we prepare for the things that we can and hope we build with them a toolbox to where they are able to make great decisions for themselves.”