Fire Ops 101 will give local officials taste of firefighting training

Action photos of Merrill Firefighters practicing skills on extinguishing live fires at the NTC-Merrill Fire Training Facility and other emergency training scenarios can be quite common as they are seen training at the facility and throughout the community, in between real emergency calls.
However, recently their training focus has been on a number of different emergency scenarios, such as live burns, search and rescue techniques, vehicle extrication, vehicle fires and other special operations. The specific training scenarios are not only being utilized to hone fire/rescue personnel skills, but for preventive safety measures for many public officials who have been invited to participate in FIRE OPS 101 on Oct. 2 at the NTC Fire Training Facility in Merrill.
Fire departments from around Central Wisconsin including Antigo, Merrill, Rhinelander, Wausau and Weston along with Northcentral Technical College have teamed up to give local elected officials, such as State Representatives, Mayors, City Alderpersons, County and Town Board Members and local media personnel a chance to be a “Firefighter for a Day.” Fire Ops 101 is a chance for elected officials to experience the emergency situations that fire/rescue personnel must be prepared to deal with on a daily basis, at anytime.
The daylong event starts with participants being fitted into working “turnout gear” (the bulky suits that firefighters wear for protection), fire boots, helmets and “SCBA” (self-contained breathing apparatus), which is the air tank and mask firefighters wear when entering and working in numerous hazardous atmospheres. Once the participants are all fitted they will be briefed on the scenarios they will encounter throughout the day and the reasons why firefighters operate the way they do in the encountered situations. Scenarios for the participants for the day will include pulling hose into a live fire and extinguishing the fire within the burn room at a temperature of around 600 degrees. This is well below what firefighters must sometimes deal with in uncontrolled structure fires where temperatures can reach some 1,500 degrees and higher depending upon the materials within the structure. Other scenarios include search and rescue in a controlled smoke filled room, a vehicle fire, vehicle extrication operating the “Jaws of Life” and special operations such as an 85′ aerial ladder, hazardous material operations, rope rescue and fire prevention areas. The participants will all be accompanied by professional firefighters throughout each scenario and a certified fire instructor will be in charge of each station watching the participants for technique, but above all for safety.
The goal for the fire experience is to give elected officials a taste of the physical demands and dangers that are placed on firefighters during these hazardous situations that they are called to mitigate within their communities. With budgets continuing to tighten, it is important for the elected officials making decisions for staff cuts, to better understand why staffing is so necessary for the publics’ as well as firefighter safety. With an ever increasing need for emergency services whether it be fire, rescue or EMS, local decision makers must be educated on how to keep their constituents safe and this seems to be a great way to do that rather than just continually debating across a table about what is needed to adequately protect their respective communities.
Though the concept of Fire OPS 101 is relatively new, the area firefighters do have experience in this event, as they assisted the PFFW (Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin) with a similar event held at the Madison Area Technical College back in the spring. According to the locals who assisted, state officials along with local official participants raved about the educational experience they were provided that day in Madison.
Firefighters continually stress safety and though the participants may be placed in unfamiliar and most definitely uncomfortable situations, they will be controlled and safety will be the number one concern for all participants throughout the event.
According to an NTC registration representative, 40 participants have committed to attend and participate in the “Fire OPS 101” program scheduled at NTC’s Fire training facility in Merrill on Oct. 2.

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