Weatherford Democrat

December 9, 2012

WFD tackles high rise training week

Sally Sexton
Weatherford Democrat

WEATHERFORD — When it comes to public safety, it’s important for firemen, police departments and other government and city entities to be on the up and up in terms of preparation.

Last week, crews from the Weatherford Fire Department traveled to the northwest campus of Tarrant County College to get a little extra training in over a three-day period.

“Weatherford continues to grow and we’ve had a lot of hotels pop up in the last year that we didn’t use to have,” Division Chief and Training Officer Jonathan Peacock said.

In order to prepare for emergency situations involving high-rise buildings such as multi-storied apartments or hotels, Peacock and staff made use of TCC’s Fire Service Training Center, equipped with structures and different setups to meet any potential fire dangers.

“This is our first time training here, and the facilities that they have can’t really be matched anywhere else,” Peacock said.

Unlike typical training, which firefighters go through periodically during the year, last week’s sessions brought out completely new equipment and procedures, including extended hoses to reach higher floors.

In one of the upper rooms of the “apartment,” crews from Thursday’s training practiced observing and tackling an inflamed bedroom.

Part of the set-up included hooking two hoses together to form a ‘Y,’ with the attack hose serving as the main source of water and a back-up hose running off to the side.

Weatherford Fire Lt. Eric Barksdale, who was acting as the battalion chief in charge of command, said in those situations, crews must determine the length of the hose needed, most of the time by simply eyeballing it.

“Sometimes, an officer will step it off and radio the length back to the engine, but not always,” Barksdale said.

Once the hoses are unrolled and ready to go, the crew then begins to don headgear and oxygen masks.

“They need to have as much vision as they can before going into the fire,” Barksdale said. “If they put their masks on early, it hinders their breathing and their sight, and those are important things, especially when they’re going to be lugging those hoses around.”

Part two of Thursday’s training included identifying and extinguished a fire on the fifth floor of a building simulated as a hotel. Lt. Todd Helm and Lt. Donald Hampton each took a turn entering the ground floor of the building, identifying possible hazards such as flammable chemicals and Hazmat signs, before finding the source of the fire.

Crews were then dispersed up the stairwell, as Peacock reminded them to constantly observe their surroundings and maintain communication with one another.

“It helps to call out each floor as you reach it,” he said. “That lets command as well as your back up know exactly where you are.”

The handling of equipment, including the hoses, was also a lesson, as the fireman were encouraged to keep the hose on the outside of the stairwell.

“It’s dark and it’s hard to maintain where you’re at, but if you have the hose on the outside of the stairs, it keeps from tripping you up,” Peacock said. “Simple injuries like slipping on stairs are some of the most common ones.”

Peacock said that the main objective of the training was to get the crews acquainted with the new equipment, as well as help communication skills by radioing each movement down to the battalion chief.

“This is about reinforcing some of the basic fire skills and communication tactics to command,” he said.

Beginning this week, Peacock said the department will go over live video feed taken during the drills, review it and use it to implement new policies.