12 Weeks in the Life of a Fire Student!
Jesse from Fire 1408 - October 3, 2014
Please join us as we follow one of the students in our current Fire Fighter Program (Fire 1408)!
Jesse will be posting on this blog throughout his fire fighter training. Your questions and comments are welcome.
Jesse - Introduction to the Fire Program
The first time being in the classroom at ESA for the Professional Fire Fighter Program was on Orientation Day, Saturday, August 9, 2014. On that day I met the other students and many of the instructors.
As I entered the classroom, I noticed how welcoming the instructors were, and how organized the classroom was. Everyone had name cards on their desk and all the gear we will be using in the program. When I first sat down, I realized that I was one of the youngest in the class (18). It was intimidating at first, until everyone got a chance to say a little bit about themselves and why they were taking the program. I then realized there was no need for intimidation because everyone was there for the same reason; to pursue the career of professional fire fighting.
I had a chance to meet many of the instructors who will be teaching us throughout the three month course. Not only are they instructors, they are also full-time professional fire fighters!
My expectations for the course include learning lots through reading material, through hands on practical training, and gathering lots of information from the instructors. This is why I chose ESA. It is a school which is highly recommended by many people, and ESA provides highly trained and knowledgeable instructors with lots of experience in the profession."
Jesse - Week #1 as a Fire Student at ESA
Our first week of Fire training at ESA consisted of classroom time, working out at CrossFit Sherwood Park (CFSP), studying and memorization.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday are workout mornings. They run from 7:00 am to 8:30 am, and are led by a few different instructors/coaches - all are Professional Fire Fighters. This is another great example of how well ESA utilizes Professional Fire Fighters to train us to be successful. These sessions are aimed at the physical portion of any application process for fire fighers.
In the classroom, the instructors made it clear that the first two weeks of the program contain the heaviest workload. Part of this workload includes Building Construction which we learned about on our iPads. This information is essential. Fire fighters must know what type of structure they are dealing with. We need to learn all of the safety precautions the officers will have to analyze with a fire.
It felt great to finish the written test at the end of the week!
Jesse - Week #2 - Getting to Know You!
During the second week of training, we covered much more in our Essentials of Fire Fighting and Department Operations e-Book. When in class, the instructors give enough breaks throughout the day to help keep our minds focused. It is also a great time to socialize with your classmates. Over the past weeks, we have gotten to know each other very well. There have been numerous occasions after class where a large number of us get together and go out for supper. It’s great getting to know everyone in the class, and seeing how many people share the same interests.
Firefighting topics during the week ranged from rescue tools, vehicle extraction, forcible entry, ground ladders and tactical ventilation. These are only a handful of the chapters we covered in preparation for the coming week. This is when our class takes the first trip to Vermilion to practice all the “hands on” skills we will need not only to be a successful fire fighter, but also to preform job tasks safely and properly. I’m looking forward to this!
Jesse - Week #3 - Platoons and Practical Training
On the third week in the Fire Program at ESA, we went to Vermilion for some practical training. We spent two days learning how to don and doff our personal protective equipment, how to raise and hoist equipment, how to perform search and rescue/ firefighter rescue, and how to work in a structure with a charged hose line.
With hands on training, comes teamwork. This is where our class learns to work as a team. The class was separated into 4 platoons (groups). These are the groups we will be working with during practical training. It has been a great experience getting to know the class and my new Platoon. We are doing things like going out for supper after class, and studying together as a group.
After our two days in Vermillion, we came back to Sherwood Park and continued our usual routine: morning workouts and in-class theory.
On Wednesday and Thursday we had practice exams. This was useful for the students and teachers to see how everyone was doing with the material covered so far.
On the following Friday we went out to Strathcona County Emergency Services Heartland Hall (Station #4). There we learned about different types of tarp folds, how to utilize them during salvage and overhaul, different types of fire scene lighting and utilities, hose deployment, and hose rolls.
Week 3 was a good start to our practical training. It’s fun doing the actual hands-on work of a firefighter.
Jesse - Week #4 - Back to the Practical
This week we were back in Vermilion for more practical learning. Throughout our 3 days there, we learned and participated in hose rolls, hydrant connections, forced entry, vertical ventilation, ladder types, carries and ladder rescues. We finished off the last day with rope rescue. For this, we walked out to one of the large training stations that simulates a three story building, and learned how to use and set up all the equipment to save trapped victims. On Friday, we came back to ESA and went through the beginning chapters in the Pumping Apparatus Driver/Operator e-book.
Our week wasn't done there. On Saturday, a few of the students in the class, including myself volunteered at a fundraiser: The 16th Annual Corn Fest in support of the Firefighters Burn Treatment Society (Edmonton Chapter). We learned about this event through ESA and it gave us a great opportunity to get involved in the community and raise money for a very important and worthy cause.
Jesse - Week #5 - Driving Emergency Vehicles, Aquatic and Self Rescue
During the first part of week #5, we continued learning about pumping/driver operations. We covered topics such as driving, operating, inspecting and maintaining emergency vehicles.
Later in the week, we went back to our Essentials e-book for portable fire extinguishers and fire control. It was interesting learning about how different types of fires require different extinguishing agents.
Toward the end of the week, the four platoons were divided in half. Two platoons went to the University of Alberta to participate in water rescue techniques and the other two platoons went to Strathcona County Emergency Services’ Station 6 to participate in firefighter self-rescue. These sessions were led by ESA instructors who also work as active Water Rescue and Technical Rescue technicians. The next day each group switched so that every student had a chance to participate and learn in all of the training.
Jesse - Week #6 - Half Way There!
On week six, we spent the whole week at the Emergency Training Centre, the fire training grounds in Vermilion. The first day we learned how to operate and drive the fire engine. The second day we learned how to appropriately use fire extinguishers. The training grounds has a specific training area where they would start fires on different props for us to put out using various fire extinguishers. The instructors also demonstrated how different fire extinguishers work on certain types of fires. After lunch on the second day we did dry tower runs. The instructors showed us what it was like doing searches in a smoke filled environment with little to no visibility.
The last three days consisted of live tower runs in the large concrete building at the fire training grounds. The instructors designated each person for a specific task, and rotated us through each position. The things we were doing are:
- operating the engine truck
- operating the nozzle and putting out the fire
- being the backup firefighter who assists the nozzle man with carrying the hose and does the searches of each room
- being the officer who will tell others what is happening, what to do, and will communicate with incident command through a radio.
Once we were assigned a position, the instructors set fires in different rooms, put dummies in the rooms, and give us the scenario. The objective was to find the victims and put the fires using proper techniques.
After each scenario was complete, everyone would gather around for a debriefing where we would talk about what was done correct, and what could be done differently.
Jesse - Week #7 - Busy Week!
Monday of week 7 started with our NFPA 1001 Level I exam at the Vermilion fire grounds. Once we were done, we moved into the practical evaluations. The Evaluator told us what to do, and we had to do it properly. We could be asked to do anything that we had learned during practical training. That's why it's a good idea to make sure you have all the knowledge before going into the exam!
The next day was our pumping practical exam. We had to draft water from a pond, and pump water from the engine. The biggest thing to remember here is the friction loss and other numbers needed to supply the proper amount of water to the proper hoses.
The days following were back at the ESA classroom where we started covering Firefighter Level II objectives in our Essentials book. Here we had learned about communications, fire and life safety, fire origin and cause, fire protection systems, fire control, and rescue tools.
Jesse - Week #8 --HAZMAT
On week 8, we started with our morning work-out at CFSP, then proceeded to the ESA classroom to study for and write our pumping exam (601).
The next three days consisted of HAZMAT (Hazardous Materials). We learned about hazardous materials identification, incident management, PPE (personal protective equipment) and decontamination which is a huge part of dealing with contaminated materials. On Friday, we went to Strathcona County Emergency Services Station #4 (Heartland Hall) where we did the practical portion. The instructors set up props which played the role of chemical spills. Each person had a chance to wear a class A, B and C Hazmat suit. Class A, being the highest level of Hazmat suit, would be assigned the task of stopping the chemical spill; class B the first stage of decontamination; class C the last part of decontamination.
Overall, this was an interesting week:
- learning about how easily chemicals cause an IDLH (immediately dangerous to life and health) atmosphere, and
- without the right protection and decontamination, can cause great harm or even death to responders, residents and/or bystanders.
Jesse - Week #9 - Dangerous Goods and Difficult Fires!
On week 9, we started off with WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) and TDG (Transportation Dangerous Goods). Our main focus was on different placards found on vehicles that transport dangerous goods, different hazardous materials, and how to deal with HAZMAT incidents.
The second and third days were our industrial tower runs in Vermilion. We used controlled industrial fire props which were operated by propane. The instructors taught us how to move properly when advancing toward the fire, and how dangerous it could be if we did not listen to instructions or properly perform our individual tasks. Once we learned how to move properly, we did some foam demos. The instructors would start fires with gas, and we would use medium to high expansion Class A and B foam to put it out. After that, we moved to the industrial towers. The main thing you have to remember while fighting industrial fires, is to Think and Always be Aware of Your Surroundings. You will be fighting very large and hot fires that do not go out right away.
When we got back to the classroom the next day, we had a very good talk about CISD (Critical Incident Stress Debriefing) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). We learned how different calls can affect you emotionally, and the many ways to deal with them. After that we had a guest speaker from the St. Albert Fire Department come in and talk with us about their department.
On the last day of the week we had two written HAZMAT exams, and two practical exams. The written exams were done in the classroom, and the practical was done at Strathcona County Emergency Services Station #4 (Heartland Hall) which is located north of Sherwood Park.
Jesse - Week #10 - Vehicle Extrications
We started on Tuesday (due to Thanksgiving Monday) with in-class vehicle extrication theory class. The last three days of the week were spent at Buck's Auto, Sherwood Park doing vehicle extrication practical skills. We started the practical evolutions with hand tools then advanced to using the large hydraulic tools. The instructors wanted us to get a feel for cutting apart the vehicle with just hand tools because you can't always rely on hydraulics.
On the last day of the week, we partnered up with ESA’s EMT class and did some scenarios. Each group was given a car with a simulated patient, and we would do a full scenario of patient care and vehicle extrication. The fire class cut the doors and roof off and the EMT students went in, did the patient assessment, and took the "victim" out on a spine board.
Overall this was a great week. We had lots of “hands on” time with the tools, and learned proper ways of extricating a victim from a car while working with EMS.
Jesse - Week # 11 - Exams and Wildland Training
On week 11 we started off with our fire presentations. Each person in the class was assigned the task of creating a presentation on fire safety and life safety. Two of the main topics used were fire extinguisher safety for adults, and the “stop drop and roll” for kids.
The next day we were back at the fire training grounds at Lakeland Emergency Training Centre for the last time. Here we did our 1001 Level 2 written exam in the morning, and Level 2 practical in the afternoon. During the practical we covered things like vehicle extrication and industrial tower runs.
The two days following consisted of wildland firefighting. We covered the theory portion in class and on the last day of the week, went out to the town of Gibbons and worked on the practical. Here we learned how to operate the tools that are used in wildland firefighting, how to draft water from a river, and how to dig trenches properly.
The three days for wildland were very informative. There was a lot of information to learn in a small period of time. If you read lots and studied the material, one wouldn't have a problem.
Jesse - Week 12 - Candidate Competition and We're Finished!
In week 12 - the last week of the program - we started off writing the Wildland test at ESA, and then we went to the remote site by the town of Gibbons for theWwildland practical.
The last three days of the week, we worked on the Candidate Competition. This consisted of writing an aptitude test, completing a physical examination (the same practical test done at the University of Alberta that many fire departments use during their application process), and sitting through an actual interview between the fire student and an interview panel. This panel consisted of Career Firefighters, Members from HR and one person from the Management Team. Each one of these steps was preparation for applying to a fire department, and give a good idea what one needs to work on before applying.
Our Recognition Ceremony followed the competitions. During this formal event, our class president, captains, and instructors spoke about how the past three months had been. Then each individual in the class was called up to get a certificate. After this, our instructor called on four different people for individual awards. These awards were the Harold Criss Award, Cross Fit Sherwood Park Award, the Academic Award, and the Candidate Competition Award.
My overall experience at ESA was awesome. The mental and physical challenges that come with the program made me a stronger person. ESA does a great job preparing you for the future. I've come to learn that there is never a question that can't be answered at ESA. The instructors and administrative staff have more knowledge and experience than you could ask for, and I would like to thank all of them for making my time at ESA the most memorable time of my life.