Training, safety part of job
Inside a smoke-filled room with debris and burning material falling around them, firefighters can rarely be sure about their surroundings.
Each fire scene is different than the last and no two places are built just like another. That's why the Russellville Fire Department spent part of this week training with their Rapid Intervention Team (RIT).
Fire Chief Joe Mansell said the RIT prepares firefighters for situations in which they may not be familiar. Department members have been training this week to know how to move into burning buildings carrying an extra tank for someone inside.
The packs that firefighters wear make a beeping noise if the rescue worker has not moved for more than a few seconds. The alert is to notify other firefighters that they are possibly down and need assistance.
To prepare firefighters for delivering the packs and hooking them up in the midst of a fire, Mansell said department members practiced in smoke-filled rooms this week wearing blindfolds.
"When you go into a structure fire you might as well just shut your eyes," the chief said. "We have thermal cameras that help us see in all the smoke, but that's about the only thing that does help."
Mansell said media reports of firefighter deaths across the country really drive the point home about just how important fire training is.
"It changes everyday," he said. "Every new car is built differently and there are different things we have to know about them and to be prepared for."
He said the city has provided his department with help and support through training and equipment and he hopes to build on that.
"We hope to get a couple of old houses pretty soon that we can train in," Mansell said. "It's a job where you have to be prepared and on top of everything all the time."