Firefighting takes skill, strength, courage

Have you ever wondererd what it's like to be a firefighter? Reporter Natalie Pilato suited up to find out. Here is the first of a two-art series on her time at Bonnyrigg Heights Fire Station.

Running into a burning building while others are running out is not for everyone.

Imagine the toxins and fumes from the smoke, the heat from the flames, the building falling apart and saving any occupants is the only thing on your mind.

Welcome to a day in the life of a firefighter.

On Wednesday, January 15, the Champion had the opportunity to spend a day at Bonnyrigg Heights Fire Station to learn the ropes of working as a firefighter.

First the gear: thick pants and a jacket lined with fire-protective material, very much like wearing a woollen jacket and track pants — comfortable, but hot in summer.

Temperatures on the day soared to about 37 degrees. It was a shock to learn temperatures were actually a lot hotter at some fires.

The first task was to rescue people (really two dummies) from a mock fire in a building.

The crew talked us through the operation and helped us with the gear.

In addition to what we were already wearing, we strapped on a 15-kilogram oxygen pack with a compression tank, mask and alarm.

The pack is an essential piece of equipment when fighting some fires as smoke inhalation can be deadly.

Next we put on a neck and head garment called a flash hood, followed by our helmet and gloves.

Last, greaseproof paper was placed over our masks and we were ready.

The paper was applied to make the rescue seem more realistic as firefighters often have to rescue occupants while not being able to see through thick smoke.

The rescue was extremely difficult and required at lot of skill and expertise.

We navigated our way through the rescue as firefighters would, in pairs, taking carefully placed steps and relying on both our buddy and our senses as a guide.

When we found the trapped people (dummies) we took them to a designated triage area where we helped assess their condition.

Navigating one's way through a building with vision obscured was a nerve racking experience, and gave an understanding of how frightening and dangerous it must be to be faced with real flames.

The Champion now has a new found appreciation for the work of firefighters.

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