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Wheatland Sun

Ready to Protect and Serve

Jan 05, 2022 12:00AM ● By By Seti Long

As training continues, crews rotate in and out of drills designed to hone their skill sets as firefighters. This group of Firefighters prepares to enter the smoke-filled training facility in order to detect and extract victims - in this case, life-like dummies. Photo by Seti Long

Ready to Protect and Serve [3 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

GRIDLEY, CA (MPG) - Recently, Gridley Fire Department/CALFIRE Butte Unit Crews, accompanied by sister stations, such as Oroville Fire Department, went through a week-long series of training and exercises designed to keep their firefighting skills sharp.

The forty-hour week of training and exercises began at what remains of Gridley’s cannery and wrapped up at Orchard’s unused and unoccupied assisted living facility, located directly behind the hospital. The cannery served as training ground for some live-fire exercises and commercial setting exercises, while the hospital’s old, assisted living facility allowed crews to refine their search and rescue techniques.

Gridley Fire Department/CALFIRE Butte Unit Fire Captain Mike Conaty explained that the purpose of these training exercises, held twice a year, were multi-fold: to keep skills sharp, train and refresh on various types of equipment, and to bring crews from units throughout the county onto the same page so that when they respond to a real-time emergency, their procedures are uniform across the board.

Conaty shares the topics of focus during this training: search, ventilation of the building, forcible entry on both residential style buildings and commercial style facilities, panic hardware training, salvage operations, aerial ladder training, and thermal imaging, just to name a few. Being a firefighter necessitates mindfulness and multitasking, but depending on what truck you are on, designates your role when responding to an emergency situation. Ladder truck crews are typically responsible for ventilation and lifting the smoke up off the ground crew, which are firefighters responsible for the hose line, containment, search, rescue, and more. Working together to seamlessly attack the fire from any angle, contain it, and rescue victims, whether you be from different departments, is the overall goal.

We caught up with firefighting crews as they were searching for victims during exercises held at the old, assisted living facility. A theatrical smoke machine set up inside the building mimicked live-fire smoke, filling the building with smoke and limiting visibility 100%. Ground crews, blind in the smoke, demonstrated how important it was to work off the line, a rope tied to an anchor spot in the building, that aids in navigation in and out of the structure. Using thermal imaging units as a second set of eyes, firefighters were able to locate other firefighters, victims, and in active scenarios, would be able to see hot spots through the smoke. Other individuals, it was observed, seemingly glow on the thermal imaging screens and stand out brightly against a grayscale background. “Victims” were life-like dummies positioned strategically throughout the building, which had the added benefit of being a two-story structure, so that crews present had a multi-story training opportunity. As each crew did their part, they had the added challenge of remaining aware of their compressed air supply, which if expires before a firefighter reaches safety, could result in their death.

It was an enlightening look into what our local and area firefighters do to prepare and remain ready to serve and protect our communities.