Once a year, for four weeks in September, local Fire Departments go back to school. But this educational institution is not what you would classify as “ordinary.” The Nassau County Fire Service Academy in Bethpage puts your feet to the fire… literally.
“The fire is there, it’s hot,” Mineola Fire Chief Jeff Clark said. “You can’t see in front of you. It puts the guys to the test. If you want to become a firefighter, we’ll train you. We have guys that went through this and decided it wasn’t for them.”
Members of the Mineola Fire Department participated in numerous, real-life drills on Wednesday, Sept. 24, training its department through two, gut-wrenching drills to test their wits; the first being an “office building/fireproof structure” with sprinkler systems.
“When you think about it, you put the gear on and you can’t see, communication is a challenge and it’s hot,” Clark said. “You could come across someone that’s injured. You have to stick with your team and do your job.”
Click here for photos and more from the Nassau County Fire Service Academy.
The second drill, which fire reps called “more crucial” encompassed flames in a “residential structure/non-fire-proof building. For Clark, the latter tested the firefighters. In between each drill, instructors held impromptu classes with firefighters, breaking down their performance and giving insight of what can arise during a legitimate threat.
Earlier in the month, the department tackled scenarios in townhouses, warehouses and single-family homes at the complex.
“This [residential stage] is one of the more critical drills because of the number of high rise residential dwellings that we have [in Mineola] like the Birchwood Court Complex,” he said. “We have a lot of those structures in our community so it’s important that we practice that.”
Even though it was considered practice, real life situations arise. One of the companies water lines’ burst during the first blaze.
“That’s where you learn on the fly,” firefighter Donald Franz said. Franz has been with the department and has visited the school since 1969. “The [water line issue] they had is the proving ground. That’s the good part of it. It’s where you want to make your mistakes so you can learn from them.”
The company brought up a second water line. On a real scene, that could be “chaotic,” Clark said, “but they handled it like a real situation.”
“It’s good practice,” Clark said. “This facility does a good job bringing the situation as close to real life as possible.”