Firefighting: Much more than fighting flames

Over the past few years, data shows personnel have handled upwards of 4,000 fire inspections. Firefighters also completed roughly 9,000 hours of training. (KTVO/Ashley Hoak)

Calls for service for one Heartland fire department have increased 29 percent over the past 10 years.

But, emergency calls aren't the only thing keeping firefighters in Kirksville busy.

Over the past few years, data shows personnel have handled upwards of 4,000 fire inspections.

Firefighters also completed roughly 9,000 hours of training.

KTVO recently got an inside look at one aspect of that testing.

Kirksville Fire Deputy Chief Jon Cook says the training allows personnel to evaluate their own physical fitness and make sure the basic functions of a firefighter can be completed.

"A lot of our job is pretty mundane. We do inspections, we do training, we do stuff that's not very physical. Then in four minutes, we are expected to go from zero to 100 basically, with all out physical exertion."

Cook adds that this testing helps firefighters to learn more about how much, and how fast their air supply is used up when responding to different calls.

He says the department recently got new air tanks that are rated for 45 minutes of use.

"That's resting. That's not a very accurate depiction of how long they will actually last. Most people will be able to get about half that amount of work out of it. You know, we are looking at 22 to 25 minutes of work for the average person. Bigger people consume more air than small people, your physical fitness, those are all factors."

Right now, the department is in the final stages of putting together this test which will soon become an annual exam.

Recently, personnel in Kirksville took part in the test to see if any adjustments are needed.

Although some tasks are strenuous, firefighters made completing each obstacle look simple.

The course was made up of several different stations that simulate a number of scenarios.

"The first station is a hose advance. They will grab the charge hose line and advance it and hit a target with the stream."

Next, you put the hose down and move on to the overhead ventilation simulation station.

"They will put a pry bar over their head 10 times and then they climb stairs to the second floor. They come down and do a forcible entry simulation and take a sledgehammer and hit a target 10 times as well."

After that, to test weight endurance, you move a hose roll from one location to another.

The next station is set up to test fine motor skills.

"They are already exhausted, they are winded and now we ask them to do fine motor skill stuff and move two softballs and two baseballs from the top of one cone to the next."

But, the test doesn't come to an end there.

"Next, they climb through a confined space simulator through a tunnel. Then they simulate a rescue and drag a 150 pound mannequin 20 feet."

Cook adds that personnel must then go through the course until a low-air alarm on the tank sounds and the air supply is exhausted.

"Each individual firefighter can gauge how effectively they utilize the air and they know how much real working time they have. It's very important in particular after that low-air alarm goes off, if they get into a dangerous situation to know how much time they've got to escape."

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