Elected officials experience dangers firefighters face at ‘Fire Ops 101’

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LAWRENCE, Ind. – For a few hours Tuesday, several elected officials got to experience first-hand what it’s like to serve as a firefighter at Fire Ops 101.

The Professional Firefighters of Indianapolis Local 416 hosted the event at the Lawrence Firefighter training facility. Several members of the Indianapolis City-County Council, township trustees, IMPD Chief Bryan Roach and others went through several different training scenarios designed to give a realistic firefighting experience.

Organizers say the day was meant to show budget writers the strenuous and often dangerous demands of the job.

“We don’t think there’s any better way to convey that message than to bring those trustees and board members and councilors out here, put them in our suits and put them through our drills,” said Indianapolis Professional Firefighters Local 416 Decatur Township President, Scott Johnson. “We want all of our participants that do these drills to feel as much of the same things that we see and feel in these scenarios as we do when we go out on our normal routine calls. And some of our calls that are not routine.”

Those participants were taken through different scenarios like responding to emergency overdose calls, search and rescue inside a burning building, a 100-foot ladder climb, extricating trapped victim of car crashes, and fighting a live fire on the second floor of the building.

During the simulated overdose run, two simulated victims required CPR and a dose of Narcan to keep them alive until they could be treated at a hospital. Organizers say such situations happen daily, sometimes several times a day, as Indianapolis’ opioid epidemic continues to plague neighborhoods.

The search and rescue exercise placed participants inside a smoke-filled room with virtually no visibility. Instructors showed participants how to feel their way around a room in an effort to locate an unconscious victim inside. The exercise also made use of a thermal imaging camera and monitor, which was the only way for the guide to direct each participant to the victim. Organizers say such technology greatly helps fire departments to quickly locate and rescue victims who can’t evacuate themselves from a burning building.

Instructors also demonstrated the need for the latest tools and training while extricating victims trapped in a car crash. Tools like the “jaws of life” used to pop doors right off of older cars that were made of all metal. But more modern auto makers have turned to other materials like fiberglass, making some extrications more difficult. Instructors also say modern electric and hybrid vehicles require new training on how to safely disconnect a vehicles electric system during a rescue.

Johnson said the live fire exercise, which put participants in a room with open flames, demonstrated the need for fire departments to be properly staffed. The exercise required participants to carry a fire hose into a building and up one flight of stairs before spraying water on the fire. Instructors pointed out that three people carrying and guiding the hose was a fast, efficient way to get the water upstairs. But some fire departments don’t always have the manpower to put three people on a single hose at a fire scene.

By the end of the day, everyone who participated in Fire Ops 101 was exhausted and drenched with sweat. The hot day in about 75-pounds of firefighting gear was challenging to work through. Johnson says that kind of challenge is what fire departments deal with on a daily basis.

“It’s highly likely some of you lost five pounds just in your sweat today,” he said.

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