Peoria firefighters train for challenges posed by high-rises – Peoria Journal Star

PEORIA — The shout was for extra hose as Capt. Mike Wittenmeier pushed down the smoke-stuffed hallway.

It was sizzling and humid, with only some ft of visibility. Smoke stuffed the hallway, and Wittenmeier wasn't happy with the sluggish progress.

"Come on," he yelled to a beleaguered reporter who was trying to lug the dampen the hallway.

Happily, the smoke got here from a machine, and there was no hearth. However coaching was as actual as attainable for the six or seven firefighters who participated.

Each month, firefighters with the Peoria Fireplace Division observe what to do if there's a hearth excessive off the bottom. And by inviting a reporter alongside, they hoped to convey the difficulties related to such fires and the necessity to stay vigilant. 

Throughout the previous few months, Peoria firefighters have battled two excessive rise fires. Whereas that may not appear to be a big quantity, it's uncommon for a metropolis of this measurement. Battalion Chief Tom Carr stated that each one fires require coaching and observe, however excessive-rise fires require a bit extra as a result of they are not quite common. Additionally, he stated, there's a particular security side.

"With a home hearth or a construction hearth, there may multiple approach in or out of the constructing. With a excessive-rise, there tends to be only one approach in or out," he stated.

Greg Walters, the fireplace chief in Peoria Heights and likewise the fireplace science program coordinator and teacher at Illinois Central School, agreed, saying such fires are harder as a result of they occur much less usually. Consequently, coaching periods like one final month simply north of Downtown Peoria are vital, officers say.

Carr stated cities resembling Chicago can carry as much as 60 to the scene, however in Peoria, the quantity is about two dozen. That is 5 engines and two ladder vans, every of which has about three firefighters. Just a few go in to take a look at what taking place, whereas others discover the fireplace hydrant after which the skin connection on the constructing. It is there, on the standpipe, that hoses can pump water as much as the ground in want.

But, most of these aren't speeding into the constructing. Fairly, they're manning stations outdoors to both help with water or are "prepared reserves" to interchange firefighters who have been within the constructing earlier than.  Everybody has a spot and goal on the scene and nationwide hearth security protocols dictate a sure quantity for security.

Capt. Richard Sales space, who has 34 years within the division, says these firefighters are wanted as a result of it is exhausting work lugging tools and equipment as much as the ground the place the fireplace is. Every firefighter wears or carries about 80 kilos of substances. The turnout coat, which is the jacket most of us see the firefighters carrying, is heavy and feels just like the lead protecting smock that's used when somebody is X-rayed.

The pants and boots are additionally heavy, and the boots make a foot really feel suctioned to the ground. Add on a 19-pound backpack with a oxygen tank, a face masks, a flashlight and a helmet and it is simple to see how an individual could be worn out. However that does not embody the "excessive-rise pack," Carr stated. The pack is about 50 ft of hose that's tightly bundled and carried by the firefighters on their backs.

Inside a home hearth or a single story hearth, the water is on the identical degree, for essentially the most half, as the fireplace. With a excessive-rise blaze, a firefighter can journey an elevator up a methods, all the time stopping at the least two flooring beneath for security. From there, they've lug hoses and different tools. Carr and Sales space each say that for security, coverage dictates workforce units up a couple of flooring beneath the precise hearth. Fashionable buildings have hose hookups on each ground. It is too harmful to attempt to arrange a hose on the identical ground as the fireplace, Sales space stated.

"Should you try this, you may get into the difficulty as there's smoke and warmth, and if the fireplace flashes, you is perhaps making an attempt to screw within the hose whereas the fireplace is coming to you," he stated.

For that motive, the observe is to "hump hose" via the stairwell. Normally, it is a a ground or two beneath the precise hearth. And even that is a troublesome course of. Think about a hose, totally charged with a number of kilos of water strain. The hose itself is heavy, and with every gallon of water weighting about eight kilos, the road turns into nearly like a small metal pipe. The gloves used by the firefighters aren't the grippiest. Mix that with the observe of staying low to the bottom to keep away from smoke, and it is exhausting work.

A single tank of oxygen can final between 20 to 30 minutes. A typical rotation for a firefighter is about two tanks or about 40 minutes most. Guys are rotated out to relaxation and rehydrate so they do not get injured.

Throughout the coaching train, the reporter tripped and fell a couple of instances. The hose slipped via his arms and his helmet fell off. Had it been an actual hearth, the implications may have been extreme. As an alternative, he was capable of get to a ventilated room and drink some water after about 15 minutes of "battling the fireplace." It is for that motive that so many firefighters present up, Wittenmeier stated.

"Think about making an attempt to try this with half the fellows there," Wittenmeir stated.

Andy Kravetz could be reached 686-3283 or Comply with him on Twitter @andykravetz.

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Peoria firefighters train for challenges posed by high-rises - Peoria Journal Star