COARSEGOLD – Firefighters from several local stations worked together Thursday evening, training on techniques and procedures to keep them at the top of their game.
This multi-company drill for Battalion 5 firefighters was part of ongoing training that takes place at least once a month. Battalion 5 includes Coarsegold, Raymond and North Fork.
Madera County Volunteer Fire Station #10 and their Captain Chris Haynes hosted the drill where three different scenarios were staged for teams to hone their skills.
First was vehicle stabilization and extraction. As the wildland fire season winds down, and rain and more nighttime driving enter the picture, first responders prepare to deal with more motor vehicle accidents.
In this exercise, a car, generously donated by JoAnn and Darrell Swallows and delivered and retrieved free of charge by Technique towing, was staged as an accident scene, complete with a “dummy patient” who had reportedly stopped breathing.
Teams had to stabilize the vehicle, get oxygen to the patient and cut the car apart around themselves and the victim. This requires operating dangerous and heavy equipment, such as the Jaws of Life and its accompanying generator, in very close quarters. They must also make sure that the car is stable and does not crash down on them as they work.
The second exercise involves attacking a structure fire. Crews arrive to find smoke pouring from a building, and must hook up to the hydrant and drop large diameter hose to the engine and smaller hose to the fire.
Then they enter the building in the complete dark, keeping low and working their way only by feel to rescue an unconscious person. For every two firefighters who go in, two are stationed outside to be ready to intervene if those inside need assistance.
The third exercise may be the most uncomfortable for anyone who has a hard time in tight spaces. This drill is meant to simulate being trapped in a building collapse.
Firefighters in full gear, with an oxygen tank and breathing apparatus, crawl through a very tight tunnel strung with twine. The twine catches on their gear and they have to keep freeing themselves of the entanglement, then cut their way through drywall to gain access to a small opening at the end of the tunnel.
At this point, they must remove their air tank, as the opening is not large enough to fit through with the tank on their backs, then push it through the opening, crawl out, and quickly get geared back up.
Personnel from both Cal Fire “career stations” and Volunteer “paid call firefighter” stations work together as one unit during these training exercises, as they do when responding to real-time calls.
Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson says the drills are a chance to train as one firefighting team.
“We train how we fight, and we fight how we train,” he told the troops before the exercises began. “This gives everyone a chance to learn their limits and work together. Knowing everyone’s capability only makes us stronger.”
Both Chief Christopherson and Captain Haynes are very passionate that they are all one fire station – career or volunteer – and are working together the best they can.
The multi-company training is initiated and set up by Cal Fire, and assisted by many others including Ken Harrington, Yosemite Lakes Park Utility Company Manager, who provided all the street blockage barriers and tractor work, and “always bends over backwards at a moments notice to assist the fire department.” says Haynes. Ken is the former Captain at Station 10 and served for 20 years.
“This training is very important for both our firefighters and our communities,” says Captain Haynes, who is a full-time paramedic at Sierra Ambulance. “Our residents donate a lot of money for training, and we’re putting it to good use.”
About 20 firefighters participated in the drills, and Engine #4260 was called out to a vehicle vs. bear incident in the middle of the proceedings. They headed out to their assignment, and when they were called off enroute, they returned to join their fellows in this valuable training opportunity.