It’s a scenario that is every firefighter’s nightmare. But thanks to this week’s training, members of the Wilmington Fire Department will be prepared for the worst.
Eighteen firefighters from Wilmington and one from Lexington worked Tuesday at the Whitefield School on Middlesex Ave. during a Rapid Intervention Team training session that simulates the rescue of a trapped firefighter.
During the training, firefighters wore specified oxygen tanks and masks that were blacked out to simulate non-existent visibility. Teams of four used a fireproof rope to mark their path to the trapped firefighter and followed a team leader who used a thermal imaging camera to lead the way to a dummy in the back of the building.
When the teams reached the dummy, they followed the rope out of the building all while still crawling and dragging the mock victim.
“The next time someone experiences this may be the first time,” said Wilmington Fire Lt. John Brown. “Usually at this point, the conditions have deteriorated to where the visibility could be zero, heat could be intense, smoke could be rolling out the door and firefighters have to stay low and protect the firefighters behind them. So the training truly simulates what may go on in the real world.”
Brown said that until recently, there was no specific training or method to rescuing a trapped firefighter. But beginning after the deadly 1999 fire in Worcester, the topic came to the forefront. The Massachusetts Fire Academy and Department of Fire Services then began working to perfect training methods in the years that followed.
The majority of the firefighters who came for the training did so while they were off duty, something Brown said shows their dedication to their profession.
“This training also demonstrates the commitment of these firefighters,” said Brown. “It shows their commitment to the job and their willingness to learn, and learn the right way to do things. Hopefully they’ll never need this training. But I know after watching this today that there is a group of firefighters that is committed, and that this training will be shared among other firefighters in the department.”