Los Angeles city firefighters have learned the hard way about the dangers on the job when fire bares down on them. Now, new training techniques are taking lessons from firefighter fatalities to help those left behind get out alive.
The LA Fire Department obtained a federal grant for over $525,000 to fund a four-day Fire Ground Survival Class. Thirty-one departments and a total of 9,000 firefighters within the region will be trained over those four days at the department’s Elysian Park training grounds.
They used simulated situations, from being trapped in a room full of fire and having to bust through walls to escape, to escaping through second and third-story windows. It’s all based on what firefighters have encountered on the job.
"The New York Fire Department lost several members in 2005," said LAFD Captain Andrew Ruiz, the lead trainer. "Their only option was to jump out of a five-story window and several of them perished."
LAFD is also studying the use of new metal clasps that firefighters could wear as part of their standard-issued gear.
But it’s added weight.
Firefighters already wear heavy equipment, some of which plays a role in how they try to escape fire-filled rooms.
"What we try to do a is a reduction of profile," LAFD Capt. Jaime Moore said. "You have a large man, wide shoulders, wide hips with a large obstruction on his back."
That large obstruction is an oxygen tank with 30 minutes of air.
Capt. Eric Scott explained the dangers when the alarm goes off – it can often lead to panic for firefighters if the fire is too strong.
The four-day course includes classroom time, and LAFD’s new fire chief, Ralph Terrazas, said it’s an example of how the department is improving for the citizens of LA.
"We're gonna have better-trained firefighters," Terrazas said. "(They) are going to get there, know their job better, be more efficient and effective and safe."