I lied. Last week I told you we’d be going up the ladders this week. Come to think of it, it wasn’t really a lie. It was misinformation. We'll do ladders in class #7. This week we worked the fire hoses. Before class I had visions of myself in a cartoon-like event, flying around at the end of a runaway fire hose. It didn’t happen like that, but there was a time (or two) when I felt like it might.
We were each issued a rolled-up 50-foot 2½ inch attack hose that we had to carry with us to each of the three "stations," and then the class split into three groups. My group started out learning how to unroll the hoses. and then how to roll them up two different ways depending on whether we’d be going into a house fire or a multi-story building fire.
By the time I’d rolled that sucker four or five times, I was pooped -- and that station was the easy one.
For the second station, we had to wear our full turn-out gear -- pants, jacket, helmet, gloves. We learned how to get a “positive flow” of water from the fire hydrant to the fire truck so it would be available to the firefighters on the attack hoses (the ones that actually shoot the water onto the fire). Getting that positive flow meant lifting a 50-pound “water thief” -- that’s what they call it--don’t ask me why--and setting it as close to the fire as possible. It's the red thing in the picture below. I didn't lift it. The firefighter took pity on me and lifted it himself.
Then, we had to open the hydrant to be sure we had a flow of clear water (no heavy sediments that might plug up the pumper truck). After that we attached a 5” yellow line from the hydrant to the fire thief and another one from the fire thief to the fire truck.
Turn it on slowly (to keep from bouncing the fire thief five feet up into the air) until the hose fills, then open it all the way. In the picture above, the hose from the hydrant to the Fire thief has filled, and the other one is about half-way full.
I wont even begin to try to explain all the pressure gauges and such that had to be watched, but the idea is to get the water from the hydrant into the pumper truck, which can then increase the pressure so the water will actually spray out of the end. Hydrants alone do not have enough pressure to drive much water through those hoses.
Suffice it to say that I managed to connect the couplings, open the hydrant, connect the hoses, and turn on the water. I needed help on opening the hydrant -- there’s a lot of friction in those connections. Twenty years ago I probably could have done it alone, but not this time.
Once we’d each had a chance to try all this, we went to the final station, where we got to advance a fire hose. The pressure on those suckers is enough to push someone over backwards, so, on my hands and knees, lugging the hose along with me, I crawled to the edge of the “burning building” (a grassy field beside the Fire Academy), and opened the nozzle very slowly. The person behind me was pushing against my back so I wouldn’t be thrown backwards as I maneuvered the hose up and down, right and left (a sweep), and in a T (straight up, back and forth, then straight down the middle). Then we changed positions, so we could each experience both jobs.
We thought that was hard, but then we had a chance to hold the BIG hose used on huge fires. It had so much power, we had to coil it around in a loop and sit on the place where it crossed over. That fella pushes out 1,500 gallons per minute. I couldn’t manage the hose by myself, so two firefighters positioned themselves on either side of me and helped me hold the hose (so I wouldn’t kill anyone--I’m sure that was what their reasoning was).
I wish I had lots of pictures to share with you, but I took only a few. We were so busy, I didn’t remember to click the button.
Suffice it to say that, with every class, my respect for the men and women who fight fires grows as fast as a fire does. Did you know a fire doubles in size every thirty seconds?
BEEattitude for Day #556:
Blessed are those who teach others, for they shall leave the world a better place.
p.s. Helmets are color-coded--I think I got this right, but I may have missed a color:
Blue = Citizen’s Fire Academy students and cadets
Black = Fire Academy personnel
Green = CERT members
Yellow = firefighters and drivers
Red = staff officers
White = the Fire Chief
The teeny details:
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