Saturday, May 5, 2007

Traveling for the company

This past week end the entire shift went to annual live fire training. We drove a half day to the regional fire training center, where we spend a day and a half doing unnatural things. If you think about it, when the fire starts, the rats and cockroaches run out, and we run in. Unnatural.

We get to do some things that can't be called cool, but they sure are interesting!

The first evolution is the flash over simulator. This is a steel box that is set on fire so we can observe the fire conditions that lead to a flash over. We can sit in relative comfort, that's relative mind you, and watch smoke movement and density. When the temperature gets right and the gasses are hot enough to burn you can watch the strings of flame at the fuel / oxygen interface. They dance and drift, a light yellow to blue, little dragons just at your head. The smoke builds quickly to black out everything including the large fire about eight feet away. The temperature at floor level where we sit is about three hundred and fifty degrees and the ceiling temperatures are about eighteen to twenty two hundred. Cozy!

Before going in the instructors make you drink a half liter of water, they make sure no one is sweating yet so steam burns are not as likely. We choose a "loaner" helmet that isn't too melted, and hope that we won't ad the next undesirable derby to the pile. The air pack face pieces are blistered and discolored but we don't have to see much anyway. A fire fighter will soon learn that tight gear will get you burned and every layer of clothing is protection. We have the best, and this little show will build some trust in it's effectiveness and conversely let you know not to trust it too far.

We sit for six flash overs and watch the instructor control them and after each rotate from front to back. The instructors are all dig its and when everyone had seen the show from the front row, he let the light weights leave and the rest of us hung out and let it rock for a while. Everything was fine right up to the point the flame front rolled under my helmet brim!

A little too intimate, thank you very much! At this point "get down "assumes a whole new meaning.

When we exit, we have to wait for a few minutes to unsnap anything because the snaps are too hot to touch. The air packs will blister and or brand you, and the outside of your clothing is just plain unpleasant.

The next evolution is LP gas fires, followed by ventilation, and doffing contaminated gear. The next morning we do another structural fire and after lunch its rope rescue.

My only complaint was not being able to rappel in our new rescue harnesses, our manager from the plant "wasn't comfortable" with me doing it, because he felt I didn't have the right people to help me. Hold on there Lucy, I was going to rappel on a nine thousand pound test line, while being belayed by another rescue line. Chubby I am, but no one is that bad. Consider also that if my big butt is in the hurt locker these are the people who will have to get me out!

Fun Police! Who needs them?

1 comment:

Ambulance Driver said...

"The instructors are all dig its and when everyone had seen the show from the front row, he let the light weights leave and the rest of us hung out and let it rock for a while."

When I sat in the flashover simulator, the instructor let us masochists stay in there until the smoke curtain had descended to within just inches of our heads. The taller guys were hunkering down, lest they wind up looking that that Fat Albert character.

Before we all got out, the instructor said, "If you're hot, raise your hands!"

All of us did...and watched our hands spontaneously burst into flames.

WAY cool.