SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Preparing for a Firefighter's Nightmare


February 10, 2010

Ketchikan, Alaska - It is every Fire Chief's nightmare, a lost firefighter, trapped in a burning building and running out of air. On Tuesday night, February 9, 2010 the members of North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department (NTVFD) practiced procedures designed to find and rescue a trapped firefighter without injuring anyone else. A typical fire scenario was set up to test new firefighters on their ability to get water to the fire and safely extinguish it before backing out of the smoky 'structure.'

jpg The scene of the 'fire'

The scene of the 'fire', cargo containers configured in such a way to allow firefighters to practice skills learned in previous drills.
Photo by David Hull

The scenario of the drill: Just when everything seems to be going fine a firefighter goes missing. A quick check of the accountability board and those outside of the building identifies the missing firefighter, Captain Jerry Kiffer. Now the hard part starts. Where is he and how do we get him out?

Through practiced search procedures, Captain Kiffer is quickly found stuck in an old portion of the exhaust system of the fire room. The Rapid Intervention Crew, or RIC, is quickly called to action. The RIC pack is quickly called for that contains life saving air and other tools designed to free the trapped firefighter. Once the amount of air the trapped firefighter has left was established, it was decided to attach the firefighter to a new source of air and remove his airpack to help with the rescue situation. Without the extra weight and bulk the airpack adds the rescue went smoothly and Captain Kiffer was quickly brought out of the potentially life threatening situation.

jpg readying the RIC pack to supply air

In the drill: FF Dave Andrews and Lt. Steve Phillips are readying the RIC pack to supply air to Captain Kiffer, 'trapped' in an exhaust pipe in front of them.
Photo by David Hull

In all cases of heavy physical work done by the fire department personnel, a rest period is ordered by the Incident Commander to allow the personnel to rest and be checked by members of the REHAB unit. Here the firefighters have their pulse, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels checked and are given fluids to replace fluid loss in the form of sweat during the operation. REHAB is a mandated and vital process of ensuring that the FD personnel are ready to return to duty to continue with the extinguishment operations or to begin the process of overhaul and cleanup. Those with elevated pulses or blood pressures are kept in REHAB until their levels reach and acceptable lever. During this time it is the REHAB leader that has command over the personnel and they do not return to duty until the REHAB leader releases them.

This drill was a success, though with any luck and a lot of practice we will never have to use the skills learned this Tuesday night.

If this looks like something you might want to do, please consider joining the North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department. Call 22806710 or stop by at 13110 North Tongass Highway.


The writer David Hull is the Fire Chief of North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department.


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