Peoria firefighters train for special 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 doable 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 which may not appear to be a big quantity, it's uncommon for a metropolis of this measurement. Battalion Chief Tom Carr mentioned 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 mentioned, there's a particular security facet.

"With a home hearth or a construction hearth, there would possibly multiple manner in or out of the constructing. With a excessive-rise, there tends to be only one manner in or out," he mentioned.

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. In consequence, coaching periods like one final month simply north of Downtown Peoria are essential, officers say.

Carr mentioned cities reminiscent of Chicago can convey 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. A number of go in to take a look at what taking place, whereas others discover the fireplace hydrant after which the surface 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 dashing into the constructing. Relatively, they're manning stations exterior to both help with water or are "prepared reserves" to interchange firefighters who had been within the constructing earlier than.  Everybody has a spot and function 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 onerous work lugging gear and equipment as much as the ground the place the fireplace is. Every firefighter wears or carries about 80 kilos of drugs. 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 easy to see how an individual might be worn out. However that does not embrace the "excessive-rise pack," Carr mentioned. 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 probably the most half, as the fireplace. With a excessive-rise blaze, a firefighter can experience an elevator up a methods, all the time stopping not less than two flooring under for security. From there, they've lug hoses and different gear. Carr and Sales space each say that for security, coverage dictates crew units up just a few flooring under the precise hearth. Trendy 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 mentioned.

"For those who do this, you may get into the difficulty as there may be smoke and warmth, and if the fireplace flashes, you is likely to be attempting to screw within the hose whereas the fireplace is coming to you," he mentioned.

For that motive, the observe is to "hump hose" via the stairwell. Often, it is a a ground or two under 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 onerous 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.

In the course of the coaching train, the reporter tripped and fell just a few occasions. The hose slipped via his fingers and his helmet fell off. Had it been an actual hearth, the results might have been extreme. As a substitute, 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 mentioned.

"Think about attempting to do this with half the fellows there," Wittenmeir mentioned.

Andy Kravetz might be reached 686-3283 or akravetz@pjstar.com. Comply with him on Twitter @andykravetz.

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