Friday, June 27, 2014

Fire Academy: The Top 10 Coolest Things

As I mentioned a few months ago, this spring I participated in a 12-week program that College Station puts on each year, called Citizen's Fire Academy. It was a really, really cool experience, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it if your city does something similar. This is my first of two posts about the program, now that I'm done with it; today I want to show you all the cool stuff I got to do, and next time I'm going to share some things I learned that — not to be melodramatic or anything — could save your life. :)

The Top 10 Coolest Things I Did and Learned

10. Got my own set of gear. Of course, I had to return it at the end of the class, and everything was huge on me because no firefighters are short and small. But it was pretty cool to get to use real fire gear.

The gear is pretty heavy. You have boots, pants and suspenders, a jacket, gloves, a thing that looks like a ski mask but with the whole face cut out, and a helmet. It was like wearing a giant quilt sewn into a jacket. I can't imagine how they deal with wearing this heavy gear during the daytime in the dead of summer.

We also had to try on our face masks to make sure they were fitted properly for the live burn (which I wasn't able to attend because of the weekend of all the graduations). It was kind of hard to breathe in at first, and it took me a few minutes to stop feeling like I might fall off the chair. We had to do different movements in it to make sure the suction seal wasn't going to break, like moving your head up and down, side to side, and talking non-stop.

Trying not to freak out during my face mask fit test.

9. Got re-certified in CPR. I told Matt, "If you start to die, I am now experienced at probably breaking your sternum."

One of the first nights, learning what the firefighters would do if they came across someone who is unresponsive.

8. Took a tour of the dispatch center and learned all about what happens after you call 9-1-1. We watched them take some calls and send officers and firefighters out. We also talked about what qualifies as an emergency.

7. Learned about Firenadoes. That's where fire meets strong winds and turns into a tornado. This is a thing. You need to watch this video. (Sound isn't necessary.)

A fire marshal also showed us how they determine the causes of house fires, and showed how easy it was for a fire to ravage an entire room in minutes.

6. Completed the agility test. Well, almost. I couldn't drag the 175-pound dummy to safety. And I had a fire chief help me with a lot of the heavy stuff. But I lifted a fire hose and carried it up and down six flights of stairs all by myself!

That's 30 lbs. of hose on my shoulder! Once I finished struggling up and down the stairs, they brought out a lighter hose for everyone else. :-P

It was totally an adrenaline thing — you're tired and thirsty from hauling and sweating, but YOU CAN DO THIS! Nothin' gonna stop you now!

You try climbing in those giant rubber boots!

It doesn't look crazy hard from the photos, but it was extremely intense and I am not that strong. I insisted on going through and attempting all the things in the test, but I don't think I hydrated well enough during the day, because I felt sick afterwards. The other participants got to do smoke training, where you suit up and wear your face mask, and go into a "smoke house" where everything is pitch black and you have to feel around for where you're at.

Yep, that's as far off the ground as I got him.

5. Rode in the ARFF (Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting) fire truck. This truck is at the fire station next door to College Station's airport, and it takes care of any airport-specific emergencies.

(personal photo)

4. Defeated the boys on fire extinguisher night. I was the first person to actually put the fire out! Also, fire extinguishers are heavier than I expected.

(Fire from a simulator that they could turn on and off with a button, but still.)

3. Held and controlled a fire hose. We also got to go up in the ladder box to spray water from on high.

Connecting a fire hydrant to the truck. Each truck can hold 500 gallons of water, and can spray a good distance.

This time, we just rode the lift up to the top. It was cool to be high up as the water poured down.

Two people minimum to hold the hose! They're heavier than they look.

2. Climbed the 100-foot ladder on the ladder truck. Straight up into the air, 77 rungs, with just gloves and a harness to keep you from falling.

 Getting strapped into the harness. I look way less nervous than I actually was.

I am not afraid of heights, but getting to that platform at the top was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I had to stop and breathe somewhere in the middle of the ladder, clinging to the rungs.

Back at the bottom, my legs shook. Maybe with relief that it was over?

Not me. It's hard to take pictures of yourself while climbing something scary. (personal photo)

1. Chopped apart an SUV. I personally got to break one of the back windows of an old Toyota 4-Runner, help saw the windshield open and use the jaws of life to rip one of the doors off.

I'm so glad I go to be a part of CFA! I got a graduation certificate and everything. Plus, later on CFA graduates are allowed to go on ride-alongs. :) I haven't scheduled any yet, but hopefully soon!

Would you ever take a class like this? What would you be most excited to try?

(Photos courtesy of CFA unless otherwise noted.)


  1. I am so impressed that you did this! I would be too nervous to try most of these things. And my boys are really into tornadoes right now, so I will have to tell them about firenadoes!

    1. I hope they enjoy the video! I thought that was just the coolest thing. :)

  2. I would seriously love to do something like this... except I am terrified of heights! That ladder would do me in. I am short but very strong so I think I could manage... to some respectable degree... with the heavy duty stuff... but those ladders!!!

    1. Thankfully they made it clear that we didn't have to do anything we didn't want to do. You could always skip ladder day if you decided to do it!

  3. How cool! I've never heard of anything like this. I think I'd be excited to smash the car and use the jaws if life!

  4. chopped apart an SUV? how many people can say that? sounds like a fun experience, but, then again, i'm not surprised - this is about as awesome as your medical ailment gig -- makes me want to try something similar. also: Firenadoes? who knew that was a thing?

  5. That is the coolest thing! I've never heard of this anywhere before but I am totally going to look it up, though I'm not sure I would be as brave as you! Such an awesome experience!

  6. Wow! This is so cool, and something I'm guessing most people have never even heard of, let alone done! I'm impressed! Also, jealous of all that ladder climbing and SUV hacking!

    1. Thanks! It was kind of crazy the stuff they let us do!