Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Primary Search

It's amazing what the human body can do when you push it hard enough.

Last night at fire training was the first time that I really felt just how physically tough this is going to be.

Chief:"Crew Vizitei, we've got a working fire! I want a primary search on floor 1, right hand search! Get going!"

Work on the fireground isn't the same as doing the same level of physical labor at the gym. You can't breathe freely, it's so hot under your gear, there's so much weight.

Me (into the radio):"Command, from Crew Vizitei! Smoke and flames showing on side 3! Crew Vizitei is making forcible entry on side 1, executing primary search 1, right hand search!"

You have to crawl everywhere, the heat would be too much to stand in, and you can't stand to get any hotter than you already are just from the exertion.

Me (to crewmate):"This door is hot! Get that nozzle ready, I'll open it on 3!...1!...2!...3!" (The door swings open, while my crewmate points the hose at the door just in case flames come shooting out)

It's dark. Too dark to see anything, even your crewmate crouched directly in front of you. You have to keep one hand on him all the time, or you won't know where you are anymore, or which way is out.

Crewmate:"I need more hose! I can't move forward!"

Me:"Hang on! Keep your head up, I'll pull in as much hose as I can!"

There's so much stuff to take with you. Flashlight, Thermal imager, axe, halligen, radio, not to mention the hose. Before you even pick up any of that stuff, you're already carrying 30 extra pounds on your back from the breathing tank on your back. And a hose that's pressurized with water doesn't move as easily as you might think.

Me (shouting at the top of my lungs):"Fire Department! Anybody in hear!?!"

You have to move fast, but you have to be thorough too. Kids like to hide under beds. People might be unconscious behind a piece of furniture. Shuffle, feel, shuffle, feel.

Me (into the radio):"Command, from Crew Vizitei! Victim Found! Making Exit side 1!"

Nothing is as hard to move as a limp body. Limbs can get caught around stuff, the body is heavy. You can't stand up because of the heat, you can't see where you're going, every time you pull with all your might, you only move about six inches. Your breathing gets fast, your body aches, you can't believe you have anything left in you to keep moving, but you're starting to run out of air and you can't stop because you have to get this victim out of the building. Your lungs burn, and your mind screams that you're at your limit, but you don't have a choice. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

Me (to crewmate):"Stone!(pant, pant) I'm stuck! (pant) The victims arm...(pant) caught...(pant)...on the hose! (pant, pant)...Help!"

Stone:Ok, buddy! Push on 3!...1! 2! 3! PUSH!

Even once you're out of the doorway, you can't stop. You have to get away from the building. It's SO hot. You can't breathe. As you struggle to keep dragging, you work equally hard to tear your mask off as quickly as possible. Even with fresh air coming in, you can't shed heat fast enough. You can feel your clothes soaked and heavy from sweat underneath your fire gear.

Instructor:"Don't stop, we aren't done yet! What do you do now!?"


Instructor:"Well, your radio fell out of your pocket inside, so you'd better go talk to them face to face"

Gotta get the gear off. It's so hot. Can't breathe. Keep walking. So Hot. Keep walking.

Me:"Command, this is crew Vizitei! (pant, pant)...lost our radio....(pant)...Crew vizitei is par....(pant) one victim...(pant, pant)...primary search complete..."

Command:"Crew vizitei, par plus one victim, primary search complete"


Now you can fall over. Now you can tear all your gear off. Now you can get your pack off your back. Now you can poor a bottle of water over your head. But don't pass out. Don't throw up. Whatever you do, just stay calm.

It's amazing what the human body can do when you push it hard enough.

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