Friday, December 15, 2006


Imagine being a Firefighter wearing full turnout gear and trying to find your way around the inside of a strange home that is blacked out and filled with smoke. Elyria Firefighters were training today at a vacant house on East Ave, training for just such a situation.

With full turnout gear, their Scott Air Pack strapped to their backs and their facemasks blacked out, Firefighters worked their way through a maze set up for training. The house is on loan to the Elyria Fire Department from the Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority until they have the funds to demolish the structure. In the meantime Elyria Fire Officials plan on using the house as much as possible to train not only Elyria Firefighters but as many other Departments throughout Lorain County as possible.

Elyria Assistant Fire Chief Ron Brlas
gave TMC NEWS a brief summary about the training exercise.
We’re putting all the Firefighters from the Elyria Fire Department through an SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) competency drill, which is learning to use their breathing apparatus in different situations. Each man follows a lifeline through this building set up with the following obstacles;
Firefighters go through an area where the floor has been cut away that they have to maneuver over.
Second: They have to go through a 13” tall hole cut through the wall.
Third: A simulated roof was constructed that they have to get over to the other side.
Fourth: Going through a partitioned wall through a stud pocket that is 16” wide.
Fifth: Go through a narrow chute where they have to take their SCBA off to maneuver through.
Sixth: Go through a 4-foot wide window
Seventh: Up a ladder to the attic
Final: Crawl through an entanglement section recreating a ceiling drop.

When asked what the hardest part of the course was Chief Brlas said probably the final stage where Firefighters go through the entanglement section.
“It probably is the most difficult because it can become very frustrating because there are wires looped through there that they have to maneuver that they will think they are out of harms way then all of a sudden they will get a wire wrapped around a part of their tank, so that is probably the most frustrating.”

What are the long range goals for the house?
“To open it up to every Firefighter in Lorain County, we have actually had some guys from out of the county go through the house already. Our plans are to have all the fire departments in Lorain County begin training with us.”

When asked about the short term goals Chief Brlas said that with Departments budgets nearing the end of the year, most are low on funds for training exercises like this one.
“We’re hoping that after the first of the year budgets will be freed up to allow other departments to put their Firefighters through the exercise.”

How long did it take to set up the house with all the obstacles?
“It took about a week to get everything set up. Our lead instructor is a Cleveland Firefighter, Jeff Shupe. The Cleveland Fire Department is putting all of their Firefighters through a course similar to this and that is where the idea came from."

With that we left Chief Brlas and tracked down Jeff Shupe, who along with being a Cleveland Firefighter owns his own business focusing on training Firefighters throughout the state of Ohio and across the country. Shupe has been a trainer / instructor since 1980 and has been an instructor at the State Fire Academy since 1987.

What is the most requested type of training you called for?
"A lot of the specialty training now centers around your Rapid Intervention Technique, going after Firefighters who are lost in a building or like we were doing here was survival training for Firefighters if they get lost themselves in a building what do they do?"

In an exercise like this one, what are the Firefighters told to keep in the front of their minds, what is the top one or two things they need to remember?
"This training is set up to make it difficult yet educating. In the real world of firefighting we’re telling the Firefighters that they have a forcible entry tool with them because that forcible entry tool can also be used as a forcible exit tool. Like with this house here, it is a wood framed structure so a guy can knock out windows or breach walls. We also want them to have their personal light so they can see the way, sometimes smoke conditions are so heavy that you can only see a couple of inches ahead of you. Of course we also want each Firefighter to have a radio, in the past many departments didn’t have enough radios for each guy at the scene. The fire service is moving forward where departments do have radios for the communications and if a Firefighter inside is in trouble they can trigger a May Day signal that will alert other Firefighters that someone is in trouble."

You might be slightly biased for this question, but do you think Cities provide enough money for training?
"Defiantly not! We’ve been hurt over the last several years there use to be more money available but now because of other programs and so forth our money has diminished. You have to look at it this way, if we can provide better-trained Firefighters; they can provide better service to the community. The job of the Firefighter is to save lives and property and if we are not properly trained to do that number one we put ourselves at risk and the public and we can’t save the property. A lot of governmental leaders complain that the cost of training is too expensive, well look at the alternative, injuries or fatalities either to a Firefighter or civilian. Loss of property means loss of tax revenue coming into your community. The community you live in and you pay your taxes to, you’re proud to be a member of that community if a problem happens you call your Fire Department you want them to do the best job they possibly can; you want to give them your support."

To see more photos from the training course: CLICK HERE


Anonymous Bob said...

Great reporting TMC News! I wonder how many fire departments, EMS services and police departments realize the full value of your service. Not only do they get wonderful PR on their hard professional services, but they also get excellent pictures which can be reviewed for training. As an emergency provider, some of the most important photos obtained are first arriving on-scene. Unfortunately, it is often not our priority due to the many tasks required. Keep up the great work!!! I would not be surprised if by the quality of your work you end up getting pulled into some criminal cases to testify on what you witnessed.

3:59 PM  

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