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Preparing for the worst

Capt. Nate Mainwaring (center) teaches rookie firefighters Justin Cock (left) and Kyle Cordes (right) ladder safety Feb. 24 at the Powell Volunteer Fire Department. Capt. Nate Mainwaring (center) teaches rookie firefighters Justin Cock (left) and Kyle Cordes (right) ladder safety Feb. 24 at the Powell Volunteer Fire Department. Tribune photo by Gib Mathers

Powell firefighter trainees learn in simulated conditions 

Crawling around in the dark is something most people don’t practice. But firefighters take it seriously, since their safety and lives are at stake during a fire.

Folks don’t practice ladder safety much either, but firefighters do. That also could spell the difference between life and death.

Rookie firefighters with the Powell Volunteer Fire Department practiced Mayday training Feb. 24, wearing blinders over their oxygen face masks to simulate complete darkness in a burning, smoke-filled building, said 1st Lt. Delray Jones.

They also navigated, in pairs, an obstacle course with a snaking fire hose as their only guide and lifeline. One firefighter led while the other grasped his partner’s ankle so they would not lose contact in the utter darkness.

Meanwhile, veteran firefighters watched and spoke to them via two-way radios.

Imagine crawling blindly across a floor in full firefighting gear, breathing oxygen through a face mask, with the sense of touch your sole sensory input. Then, like an annoying alarm clock, the bell rings, notifying you your oxygen is depleted.

Suddenly, objects from nowhere land on your back, immobilizing you as though the building is collapsing around your head. That is what trainees had to deal with at the Powell Fire Station.

“There is stuff on top of me,” one firefighter said through his radio, his voice muffled within his mask.

Despite the difficulty, they remained cool-headed and even cracked a joke or two.

The training objectives are to build teamwork and retain the connection with your partner throughout the experience, Jones said. It is crucial to work with and never lose contact with your partner when entering a fire to ensure both enter and exit the fire safely, he said.

“You never do anything by yourself,” Jones said. “Two in, two out.”

Capt. Nate Mainwaring taught the rookies ladder safety.

Ladders are used to scale buildings, and other ladders are then attached to the roof peak so firefighters can maintain their footing on the roof’s pitch.

It is essential that firefighters retain three points of contact with their ladder, Mainwaring told them. That is two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot, on the rungs to prevent slipping while scaling the roof, Mainwaring said.

Roof ladders are anchored from the roof’s peak. Firefighters must keep one foot on the ladder in case the roof collapses. And, there always must be two points of egress allowing access to and exit from two sides of the roof. It also is essential to check ladders to ensure they are in good repair, Mainwaring said.

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