The first of my two 24 hour shifts at the Fort Walton Beach Fire Department started off early morning. There are three shifts at the department, A, B, and C. Each one works 24 hours (7am - 7am) and then has 48 hours off. As I mentioned earlier, we stayed with Ryan and Lacey in Pensacola before heading an hour east to Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Ryan was kind enough to give us a ride. Once there, we decided to go out for dinner and drinks with a couple of his friends. One drink turned into several and we ended up having a late night. Not the best idea when I was set to kick off my Firefighter training early the next day. I guess I didn't realize it would be that challenging.
I suited up with all the gear which weighs about 60lbs. After I put on the gas tank, I thought, "Hey, this isn't so heavy." That obvious mis-conception was soon relinquished after I began some the training exercises.
I took out the fire hose, ran with it pressurized for about 100ft. (when I say "ran" I mean exerting myself as if I was in a full out sprint, though with the weight of the hose, all my effort was translating into a full out crawl). I tried the "Denver Drill" which is a technique used to get an unresponsive firefighter out a window to safety.
I dragged a 180lbs dummy, climbed the 75 ft ladder, and simulated entering a building on my knees with the hose and sprayed the interior. It was a really cool experience, minus the fact that I was pretty close to exhaustion and I thought I was going to vomit. All part of the job I guess.
I felt like a wimp. All the firefighters on duty watching as I struggled to gain my breath trying to appear as if I had everything under control. What made the experience even more humbling was the fact that I knew there were taking it easy on me!
I have a lot of respect for firefighters. Not only do they put their lives at risk for others, but the training and physical shape they must maintain is truly impressive.
Afterwards we headed back to station then out for some lunch at a local BBQ hut called Wilbur's Sauce. It was awesome, we ate ribs, chicken, coleslaw... he just kept bringing us food. I am beginning to see some of the perks of being a firefighter.
We got a few calls that afternoon, a couple of vehicle accidents though nothing serious.
As I discovered when I was a Park Ranger in Week 46, you are always "on-call." In the event of an incident they are able to respond quickly and take the appropriate action, though on slow days there can be a lot of downtime spent at the fire house. I enjoyed this aspect of the job especially after the training that morning and we had a fun time hanging out with the guys and hearing all of their stories over the years.
Fighting fires is easy compared to trying to get 8 guys to agree on what they are going to cook for dinner. It was good decision and we all sat down for spaghetti.
Day 2 would bring more training drills and equal indecisiveness on what to eat for dinner, though I will write a post about it in the next couple of days.