Saturday, September 25, 2010


I had to be up at 7:00 yesterday morning to go to the training fire station. Bryan was holding a safety fair at the Target parking lot, so TEEX took a pumper out to Bryan for the event. Six Cadets showed up for the event. One of them drove himself, and another came with his volunteer fire department. The rest of us rode in the pumper with the instructor. It was a pretty cool day. We had lots of fire trucks and police cars for kids to climb on. We also set up a landing zone and had a medical helicopter land in the parking lot. Bryan Fire Department demonstrated a vehicle extrication and tore up a car. All of the Brazos County Volunteer Departments put on a drafting demonstration, dumping water in a portable tank and then drafting water from the tank to spray out. It was fun, but it was also hot! Just as we were getting ready to leave, several other cadets and I took a picture on the police motorcycle.

On the way back to the station, we stopped to put some diesel in the pumper. While we were sitting around waiting for the tank to get full, our instructor asked if any of us had ever driven a fire truck before. All of us said no, but I said that I used to be a driver for the A&M buses and had my Class B license. He said, "Well, why didn't you tell me? I would've let you drive today. Oh well, I'll let you back the pumper in while I go inside to file the driver's report." All of the other cadets looked at me with extreme jealousy. I told him that I had never backed the buses up except to get my license, but I'd give it a shot. Then he asked, "So did you get a forward only license or something?" So, we got to the station, and I jumped in the driver's seat and backed the fire truck into the bay. I'm proud to say that I am the first cadet in recruit class 133 to drive a fire truck! That definately made it worth not sleeping in on a Saturday morning.

Friday, September 24, 2010


I've had a lot of fun at the fire academy the last two days. On Thursday, we got to set up some smoker barrels to practice ventilation, and we also practiced hose handling. Today, Friday, we went over apparatus familiarization.

On Thursday, Alpha and Charlie Companies were the first in for hydraulic ventilation. The instructors set two barrels of hay on fire in the basement of the burn building. We followed the hoseline into the fire room, opened a window, and sprayed a fog stream out of the window. Somehow, the fog stream sucks air/smoke from behind the nozzle and expels it on the other side of the water stream. The objective was to use this method to clear some smoke out of the room. We followed the hoseline back outside, then re-grouped for the next evolution. This time, we were smart enough to take our laminated ID tags off of our helmets. In the basement, some of our ID tags began to melt from the heat of the fire. At the next evolution, we had two barrels of hay set on fire in a room on the first floor. We followed the hoseline in as our instructors explained to us natural ventilation, Positive Pressure Ventilation (PPV), and horozontal ventilation. Once we had all crawled into the fire room, our instructors had us stand up to see the difference in visibility at ground level and up higher in the room. At ground level, I could see about 3 feet in front of me. Standing up, I couldn't see my hand waving right in front of my face. For natural ventilation, you simply open up the windows, trying to use the wind to your advantage. This process is fairly slow at removing smoke. For PPV, you use a fan on the exterior of the structure that blows air into the building. This pressurizes the building and makes it easier for the smoke to clear out when you open the windows. The only downside to this, is that the fire is fed by the fresh air, so it tends to flare up. When we turned on the fan, I was crouching down on the ground, and all I could see was this orange glow building up around me. Around that time, our instructors told us to stand up. At this point, it was starting to get hot. I couldn't see anything but the orange glow. I began to wonder if I was still supposed to be standing up in the heat, but I couldn't see anyone from my company or the instructors to know if that's what everyone else was doing. Of course, I'm the tallest out of everyone in that room, so I'm feeling more heat than everyone else. Finally the instructors tell us to crouch down and ventilate the room. It's amazing how much it helps. I finally got my bunker gear dirty; I'm starting to look less and less like a clueless rookie every day!

After the evolution, one of the cadets next to me said that he was also wondering if we were still supposed to be standing once it got hot, so he crouched down before we were told to. He said he figured he couldn't get in trouble for it because it's not like the instructors could see what he was doing anyways. It was pretty fun to experience the fires. Another cadet said that he and the instructor were right up against the barrel, and they were really starting to feel the heat, so the instructor told him to move away from the barrel cause it was getting too hot. We stayed in the fire room for about 15 minutes, spraying water every once in a while to keep the fire from getting too big. I'm excited to finally be getting into the fun stuff.

Today, Friday, was our PT test and apparatus familiarization day. For the PT test, I did 49 pushups, 42 situps, 5 pullups, and I ran the 1.5 miles in 12:01. I was very excited to get my 1.5 miles down into the 12 minute range. That's been my goal for the last two weeks. I'm excited to see myself improving! When I first started the fire academy, I could do about 15 pushups, 20 situps, 2 pullups, and run 1.5 miles in about 16 minutes.

For apparatus familiarization, we looked over the different types of fire apparatus, and maintenance. After lunch, we went out into the bay, started up the trucks, and looked through them. It was a very relaxed day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The fire academy is getting better. We are finally getting into the fun stuff and we are doing well as a class. This morning in PT, we ran out to the drill tower and ran up and down 6 times. We also did some calf raises, decline push ups, lower back crunches, and leg raises. I think it was the third time I was running up the tower, our drill instructor ended up running the tower right behind me. It was a little intimidating, but I was able to keep up the pace and stay in front of him. After PT, our instructor congratulated us on being such a good class. He commented on how good we look and sound when we march/run in formation, how well we push ourselves, and that this is the first class in a long time that has been able to keep up with the physical training... to the point that the instructor gets a good workout from working out with us, unlike the past classes. He was impressed. We ended PT with our Muster Cry: Who are we? RECRUIT CLASS 133! What are we going to be? THE BEST! How far are we willing to go? ALL THE WAY!

Chief Ramirez called us into his office a couple of days ago to give us our overall class average. Mine was a 93.33%. The Classes' grade average is an 89.8%. He told us that this is the first class in over 5 years to not have someone dropping below an 80% by the 4th week. He was also impressed. Getting this positive feedback felt good after the first three weeks being so rough.
Tomorrow we get to go out to the burn buildings and practice forcible entry, as well as ventilation. To practice ventilation, we will be using smoke barrels to give us a realistic idea of how ventilation works. I'm bringing my camera tomorrow because there should be some pretty cool shots with all of the smoke and chain saws running. Mom, I promise not to take pictures and use the chain saw at the same time.

Here are some pictures of me during week 3:

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I had a great weekend, got to go see David, Kristen, Ava, and Penny in Abilene. Micah and Jeremy both rode with me to Abilene. We stopped by in Irving and spent Friday night there with our parents, and then left Saturday morning for Abilene. I got to Abilene at about 1:00pm, so we went to lunch once I got there. We went to a chicken place that's a lot like Babe's Chicken in Carrollton. They bring you the chicken, and then you get all you can eat vegatable sides. After our feast, we went back to the house and, of course, I fell asleep. I woke up just in time for dinner! haha. David and I went to Domino's to pick up some pizza and brought it back to the house. After dinner, David, Micah, Jeremy, and I played basketball at the apartments' new basketball court. We didn't realize it, but Josh had been trying to call us while we were playing basketball, so we decided to go pick him and James up and go to Taco Bueno (only because we don't have one in College Station). So we sat around and talked at Bueno for a little while, then went to Josh's Dorm. Josh gave us the tour, but I couldn't stay for long because it was already getting late and I needed to get back to David and Kristen's house for the night. We woke up this morning, and unfortunately, Kristen had to work. David and I swapped out watching Ava while we got ready for church. We drove out to Roby and went to church. It's neat going there and everyone knows who you are, even though I hardly ever go there. It's like even when I go to Abilene, I have a church family. I had to hurry and leave church so we could get back to College Station by 7:00pm, but Ava is so darn cute that everyone had to hold her and tell her goodbye as we walked out. We left Roby, got back to Abilene, got some quick lunch, and started on our way back to College Station. We finally made it back after a very long 5 hour drive. It was good to see family; I was really starting to miss them.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Well, today was rough. We started with PT this morning by doing 6 minutes of lunges because one of the cadets was a minute late. After the lunges, we ran out to disaster city and did some competitions between companies. After PT, we didn't get to shower because we were going right into outdoor skills training. We have spent time in class the last two days learning about hose rolls, drags, carries, and other things related to the operation of applying water to the fire. Today we got to practice what we learned in the classroom.

We were all issued a 50 foot section of one and three quarters inch hose and three inch hose. After we all had hoselines, we were required to put on all of our firefighting gear and begin practicing the skills.

We did straight rolls, donut rolls, twin donut rolls, and self locking twin donut rolls. After the rolls, we moved straight into hose carries. We did the horseshoe carry, the accordion carry, and the loop carry. Each time, we had to carry the 50 foot section of 3 inch hose (weighing about 50 pounds) about a quarter mile... in full gear... in 100 degree weather. After the carries, we began to practice hose drags. We learned 3 different methods. Again, we dragged the hose for a quarter mile. After the first hose drag, two of the members of my crew were beginning to suffer from heat exhaustion so they down geared and took a break, while the other member of my crew and I continued with the next hose drag. About 3/4 of the way through the second hose drag, I notice my heart rate increasing, but my breathing rate staying normal and with a slow walking pace, so I decided that I needed to down gear and take a break after this hose drag because I was starting to suffer from heat exhaustion. Even though our instructors would gripe at us for taking a break, I wanted to listen to my body and stay alive. Every time I lifted my helmet up, a steady stream of sweat would come off of my head and I could feel the heat radiating between my body and the bunker gear. When I was almost to the finish line, the cadet pulling hose in front of me passed out, so me and two other cadets dropped our hose, pulled his hose off of him, and got him out of his firefighting gear. We got some instructors over to where we were and called for a medic. Unfortunately, the medic was at a heat exhaustion call on the other side of the training field and would not answer his radio, so they loaded the passed out cadet in a truck and took him to the medical center. After the adrenaline rush, I finished the hose drag fairly easily. This entire training session was done over a period of two and a half hours. We only got a 5 minute break and were told that we could not down gear in between evolutions. After we finished all of our hose training for the morning, we did 30 eight count body builders and 20 crunches as punishment for a cadet not having a belt and several others not shaving this morning. Then we finally got to go to lunch.

This whole training exercise made all of the cadets very frustrated at our instructors. There is a time for physical training, and there is a time for learning. We already completed PT this morning, and are supposed to be learning and practicing these skills, but we are so exhausted from the training evolutions that none of us can even remember what it was we were supposed to be learning. We were simply trying to pull through step by step. We do not need to be in full bunker gear, in 100 degree weather, and in direct sunlight to understand how to roll, carry, or drag hose. We need to learn, practice, and perfect those skills before applying them. Yes, fighting a structural fire is going to be very hard work and exhausting, but we should be using PT in the morning to get our bodies to the level of fitness required, not our time to get the learn the basic fundamentals. There was also no need to carry that hose for a quarter mile to learn how to properly perform the carry. I don't mean to complain, and I try to understand that the instructors have their reasons for making us do the things we do; to make us better firefighters and push us to our limits so that we learn what those limits are. However, there is no need to unneccesarily put a cadets wellbeing in harms way in training. I don't have a problem with sweating and working hard, but there also needs to be alloted recovery time. At real structure fires, firefighters wearing full gear are expected to work until they use up two air bottles (about 30-40 minutes), but are then required to go to rehab for where a medical professional clears them to go back to work. Working for two and a half hours with only a 5 minute break is not acceptable on a fire scene, or in training where we do the same work we would do at a fire scene. You would assume that a firefighter training school would abide by the firefighter health and safety rules that were taught to the students in week #1. Directly out of Essentials of Firefighting 5 ed., page 68: "In hot weather, trainees should be given appropriate breaks during which they may remove all or part of their protective clothing while they rest and rehydrate in the shade." However, if we do complain to our instructors, we felt that we would either have to do more pushups, or get written up for insubordination.

When we came back from lunch, all of the companies are required to do a PAR (Personnel Accountability Report). We realized that one of our company members was not with us. We were later notified that he was taken to the hospital over lunch break for extreme heat exhaustion and having an irregular EKG. He was one of the members of my company who took a break during the hose drags because he was feeling light headed.

The instructors were reprimanded by the chief training officer over the lunch break for demanding so much out of us. After lunch, we were allowed to practice hose loads in street clothes, in the shade, and we were given 15 minute water breaks between each evolution. All of the students' attitudes improved, which also allowed for better participation and a better learning environment.

The cadet from my company that was taken to the hospital did meet up with us in the classroom at the end of the day with IV marks up and down each arm, but in good spirits.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Today's PT was tough. We started out with a run out to Disaster City. Once we got out there, we did 2 sets of forward lunges for 100ft, 20 pushups, lunges to the right for 100ft, 25 situps, backward lunges for 100ft, and lunges to the left for 100ft. After we finished our lunges, we sprinted up a 200ft hill. After sprints, we ran over to the 5 story drill tower to complete 4 sets of running up and down the stairs. After running the drill tower, we sprinted all the way back to the recruit station, where we finished up with 25 more pushups, and 30 leg throws to workout the abs.

I got showered and made it back to the classroom by 8:45am, then we started class. Today's class was pretty boring. We learned about fire hose construction, care and maintenance, hose rolls, and hose loads. During lecture, we had a 2 minute drill and a 3 minute drill. During the 2 minute drill, only 4 of us got our firefighting gear on in time, so we all had to do 25 pushups in full gear (an extra 50-60 pounds). Immediately after pushups, we were told we had 3 minutes to down gear and be back in our seats in the classroom. Most of us made it, but we had 2 or 3 students that went about 5 seconds over 3 minutes, so our punishment was to go back out onto the apron and do 100 pushups. The 3 minute drill was much better, with only about 4 of us not getting our gear on fast enough. During the 2 minute drill, I was just clicking in my SCBA regulator and breathing air when they called time. During the 3 minute drill, I had an extra 30 seconds to spare. For being one of the last ones out of the classroom, I feel like I'm doing pretty good. It is frustrating though to have the students that are the first out of the classroom still not be able to get their gear on in time.

We finally finished up our lecture and broke for lunch, just to come back and finish the day with some more boring lecture.

Every week, we have a student elected by the instructors to be Captain of the Week. This weeks Captain is letting the title get to his head. It's hard to explain exactly why he has this attitude, but everyone in the class already hated his leadership style only two hours into today. Hopefully it gets better, but I'm seeing a rough week ahead.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fire Academy

I thought I would start using the blog to keep y'all updated with my progress at the fire academy. From now on, I will be posting something often.

Today, Friday, September 10th, I got to the station early so I could fill up my SCBA (airpack) bottle. It was just barely below full, but they will make us do pushups if it is not completely full. After filling up my bottle, we lowered the flags to half mast in honor of those who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001. As the rest of the recruits started to arrive, we lined up in our stretching lines on the apron (fire truck driveway). We started our stretches and then jumped right into our PT (Physical Training) test.

The first week, I did 27 pushups in 1 minute, 31 situps in one minute, 2 pullups, and ran 1.5 miles in 14:05. This week, the second week, I did 37 pushups in one minute (10 more than last week), 35 situps in one minute (only because my abs were sore from the 50 situp punishment from the day before because a couple of people didn't have a pen on them), 4 pullups, and I ran the 1.5 miles in 13:05 (1 minute less than last week). Since last Tuesday, I have lost 12 pounds... I now weigh 236 pounds. I am not even close to where I need to be physically, but I will get there.

Yesterday and today, we were outside practicing ladder skills that we had learned in class on Wednesday. Yesterday, we practiced ladder carries, roof ladders, pompier ladders, attic ladders, and emergency ladder egress. Ladder carries were not hard at all, but carrying a 35 foot extension ladder with three sections is a lot more difficult than it sounds, simply because of the weight of the ladder. After lunch, I came back to practice the other skills. Well, during lunch, it rained, so all of the ladders and roofs were more slick. Lucky me! So I begin to practice setting up a roof ladder (ladder with hooks on the end so it can hook onto the peak of the roof). I carried the 20 foot roof ladder up a 24 foot straight ladder. Once I got to the top, I had to lock in with my legs (very difficult to do with large feet), so that I can use both hands to get the other ladder onto the roof. After pushing the roof ladder up, I climb it and come back down to the first ladder, do a leg lock, take the roof ladder off of the roof, then bring it back down to the ground.

Then I went to the next station. I practiced climbing up a folding attic ladder to the second floor, climbing through a hole in the floor to get there. After we get to the second floor, we got to practice an emergency ladder egress. For this, we crawl out of a window onto a ladder, then slide down the rails of the ladder to the ground (the most fun skill of the day). Once we completed that, we practice using a pompier ladder. A pompier ladder is used to scale the sides of highrise buildings. It is a single beam, with a big hook on the end, and cross bars to climb on. Basically, you swing the hook end of the ladder into the window of the floor above you. Once it is hooked on the window sill, you climb up into the window above you. For training, we placed a pompier ladder into a second floor window, climbed it up to the window, then came down through a different window, sliding down the ladder again.

Today, we set a 35 ft extension ladder up to the window of the fourth floor of the drill tower. We had to climb up with a sledge hammer to the fourth floor. Once we got to the fourth floor, we had to do a leg lock, then swing the sledge hammer into a panel beside the ladder. I was a little nervous about being four stories up, with no hands on the ladder, and swinging this sledge hammer around, but I got through it. Next, we climbed a 24 ft extension ladder to the second floor landing of a fire escape with a pike pole. Once we got to the landing, we practiced sounding out the floor, to make sure it will support our weight, and then we climbed up over the railing and onto the landing. After completing that evolution, we practiced raising all of the different types of ladders. While we were raising the 35 ft extension ladder, the halyard (the rope you pull to raise the ladder up) snapped and the two fly sections came crashing down. We were lucky that no one had their hands in the rungs, because it could have broken, if not severed something.

There's so much that I have experienced already, and I wish I could tell it all, but I've already typed too much for one post. Keep coming back, I'll be posting often.