In August, I was asked by our Fire Chief Brian Sears, to participate in the 2014 “Feel the Heat” for Ohio Public Officials. The State Fire Marshal’s office and the Ohio Fire Academy, hosted the event on October 25, 2014, on the Ohio Fire Academy Grounds in Reynoldsburg.
“Feel the Heat”, established in November 1997, provides an opportunity for public officials to learn first-hand about the challenges firefighters face on a daily basis. Ohio Fire Academy instructors worked closely with public officials as they learn new skills and gain a better understanding of what it means to be a firefighter.
Firefighter Brian Ackerman and I left at 6:30 a.m., on that Saturday morning to travel south for the all day event. I thought there might be some awkward moments of silence because of our age gap, but I was wrong. The conversation went well and made the time go by quicker.
Once we arrived, I received classroom instruction combined with hands-on realistic situations. I wore the turn-out gear and used a self-contained breathing apparatus to conduct search-and-rescue operations in a darkened maze. The Fire Department allowed me the use of their turn-out gear, boots, helmet, breathing apparatus and so forth. I would like to thank Fire Chief Brian Sears and Lt. Anthony Schaffer for taking the time to help me get the proper fit with the equipment and explaining how everything works. I would also like to thank Lt. Thomas Maike for the use of his fire suit.
I got the chance to break a car window, pry a car door apart, cut a car door post, climb a ladder, use the water hose, ride up high in a ladder bucket, and experience entering a burning building and put out a fire. The fire was a rather simple task. We crawled into a cement room with a fire located in the northwest corner. Turned the hose on and within seconds the fire was diminished. The smoke reduced my vision significantly. After shutting off the spray and crawling back out of the room the task was completed. Lots of thoughts ran through my mind. While crawling back out of the room trusting the predictability of a cement floor wasn’t a problem. I wondered how I would have felt if it was an old wooden structure, several stories up. No doubt the retreat from the room would have been a more cautious and time consuming approach.
Visibility was difficult in this simple task. How would I have handled it if I were further into a burning building with multiple rooms and objects to contend with while putting out a fire and rescuing people that are in the building. The job is a lot harder than it looks.
After I stood up and I went over to the area where we could take off our equipment, I was surprised how drenched my t-shirt and sweats were from the heat and tasks that I had performed.
I have gained a greater respect for our firefighters and other public employees that work to protect the citizens of our great country.
During the day, I met and interacted with other public office holders from all over the state. I also met Ohio’s 37th State Fire Marshall Larry Flowers.
It was a great experience, and it has given me a greater appreciation of the work and risk that our fire department force has to encounter. As I said previously, it wasn’t easy doing
these basic drills. I can only imagine the mental and physical stress one goes through on a major fire.
Once again, I thank the Fire Department for allowing me the opportunity to participate in this program.
by Mayor Donald R. Berkey