Going into an unknown room filled with blinding smoke, fire and an increasingly compromised building structure, to search and rescue people trapped inside, is the stuff of nightmares for most.
For a select group, this is their job, but if they get it wrong it could mean the difference between life and death, which makes training a big priority for the region’s firefighters.
Over five weeks, firefighters from Turvey Park, Albury, Culcairn, Corowa, Barham, Moama, Mulwala, Berrigan, Tocumwal, Finley, Tumbarumba, Henty, Lockhart, Griffith and Deniliquin will undergo mandatory testing of their firefighting skills, when a travelling training truck comes to town.
This week, Wagga firefighters were put through their paces with truck interior configured to look like a granny flat; complete with bed, lounge, doors and shower recess.
“It’s good because it’s as close to a real fire but you still have to do a proper search and make it a habit,” Turvey Park Senior Firefighter Noel Barrington said, who has marked 21-years as a firefighter.
The biggest change in that time has been the incorporation of thermal imaging cameras.
“It’s the best tool in the truck, but it’s only a tool. It shows us different heat patterns of bodies and while it can’t see through glass and shower curtains, it helps us find kids and animals who hide in cupboards and under beds to try and get away from the fire,” Mr Barrington said.
Turvey Park Station’s Senior Firefighter, David Simpson, has marked 22-years as a firefighter, and says the training is vital as methods change.
“We do something like this every year and it keeps our skills up, but the biggest thing is the camaraderie as we have to be able to trust each other going in.
“We have to stay in constant contact with each other; if we can’t hear someone it isn’t good,” Mr Simpson said.
Another mandatory tool for each firefighter is a Personal Distress Unit or PDU, which is motion sensitive and has a graded four-level alarm system if a firefighter goes down inside.
“Going into a building we’ve never been in before, we’re completely blind, so we follow the hoseline as it leads to a way out, and we keep close to each other as we rely on touch and hearing,” Turvey Park Station Officer Chad Kennis said.
The exercise is centered around a granny flat fire where it’s believed a child was playing with matches. The interior is filled with smoke, and dummies are placed in different locations for firefighters to find and rescue.
BA Instructor Gary Springer said, happily, the Wagga firies passed the test with flying colours.
“They did fantastic (sic). It’s good to show their teamwork in finding the casualties and manoeuvre their way around in zero visibility,” Mr Springer said.
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