Senior firefighters prove age is just a number

firefighter training

Senior firefighters prove age is just a number

Just because people have a desire to complete firefighter training and become professional rescue workers does not mean they always follow through on their goals. If these individuals ever feel like they do not have what it takes to succeed as a firefighter, they may want to turn to elderly firefighters who are not letting age stand in their way.

At a young age, now 68-year-old Vermont resident Andrea Peterson dreamed of one day becoming a firefighter, according to The Huffington Post. When she was just a child, Peterson was rescued from a burning building by firefighters.

“I remember standing there and saying, ‘I’m gonna be a fireman just like you,'” Peterson told the news source. “They laughed [and] said, ‘You’ll be a good mommy, you’ll be a good teacher, maybe you’ll be a nurse, but you can never be a fireman.'”

Of course, Peterson proved these firemen wrong and now works at her village’s fire department.

Then, there is Jack H. Dunkley, a 90-year-old Indiana resident who was recently named the state’s oldest active volunteer firefighter, the Tribune-Star reported. While Dunkley never thought he would still be volunteering at the age of 90, he has lived a good life with no regrets.


Firefighting is not just for men

firefighter training

Firefighting is not just for men

Some women may grow up with an interest in pursuing firefighter basic training so they can do their part in one day battling blazes and saving lives. However, if these individuals have ever watched a fire truck loaded with male firefighters speed by, they may abandon their dream, thinking that this profession is reserved for men. If they believe this, however, they are wrong.

Female firefighters do exist
Even if firefighting is a male-dominated line of work, there are women who tackle fires alongside men. In the U.S., around 6,200 women hold jobs as full-time, career firefighters and officers, according to the International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services. The levels of firefighter training and titles vary among these women, but many of them serve as lieutenants, captains and district chiefs.

Not only do women hold jobs as firefighters in the U.S., but around the world as well. For example, in Great Britain, more than 200 women currently serve as career firefighters. Female firefighters can also be found in countries such as Canada, Japan, South Africa and Australia.

Many female firefighters are making history
Part of the reason why misconceptions about female firefighters exists is that in some areas, women suiting up and rushing into burning buildings is still unheard of. However, several women are making history and, in the process, helping eradicate these myths.

For example, Connecticut resident Kaitlyn Burrows recently became the Plainville Fire Department’s first female firefighter, The Plainville Citizen reported. Burrows’ gender has had zero impact on her performance as a firefighter, as she is known to be hardworking, does not complain and is always ready to learn.

“The first time I was on the truck with the lights and sirens going, it was a feeling like no other,” Burrows told the news source. “I knew this was for me. I knew this was what I was meant to do.”

Challenges women may face
Still, firefighting is not a career that any woman, or man, can excel in. Lt. Jeff Gauthier of the Milwaukee Fire Department told WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio that female cadets struggle more than men when it comes to developing certain firefighting skills. However, this does not mean they cannot master them over time.

“Typically with women, we find that it’s slightly less upper body strength, smaller biceps,” Gauthier said. “But once the students learn that if they use the techniques we teach them and follow the program that we put forth, if they’ve got the heart and the desire we can get them through the program.”

Firefighters use their skills for a good cause

Firefighters use their skills for a good cause

Firefighters use their skills for a good cause

There are many ways in which firefighters can save lives, from carrying someone out of a burning home to providing individuals with a ladder so they can climb out of a smoky high-rise apartment. However, these are not the only ways these rescue workers’ firefighter training can be used to help others. In some cases, firefighters can even have a little fun for a good cause.

Climbing with a purpose
Although it may seem like torture to some people, asking firefighters to compete in a stair climb race for a good cause is not uncommon. After all, those who are in this line of work have already completed enough firefighter training drills to know how to run up stairwells while suited up for the worst possible situations.

Art Weichbrodt of Washington’s Kent Fire Department is among the firefighters who will race up 69 flights of stairs inside Seattle’s Columbia Center, according to the Kent Reporter. He does not mind the fact that he will be decked out in full fire gear, including a self-contained breathing apparatus, on February 2, because he realizes what is at stake.

The firefighter, along with 13 of his peers from the Kent Fire Department, will participate in the 22nd annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb, which is designed to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. For Weichbrodt, this is a cause that hits close to home, as one of his friends lost a daughter to leukemia, and another friend has a child with the disease.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country in Massachusetts, firefighters from three Cape Ann communities are preparing for a stair climb of their own, the Gloucester Times reported. On February 2, rescue workers will converge on One Boston Place in Boston for the 2013 Fight for Air Climb, which is being organized by the American Lung Association. These professionals plan to race up 82 flights of stairs in honor of Michael Smith, a Gloucester firefighter, who lost his battle with lung cancer this past July.

Putting their stamina to the test
Whether firefighters are charging into burning buildings or dousing flames in unbearable temperatures, they need to have stamina. However, there is no rule that says their abilities can only be used when something is on fire. That is why rescue workers from New York’s Greenville Fire District will soon use their skills during the Cycle for Survival cycling event this March, with proceeds going toward the fight against cancer The Greenburgh Daily Voice reported.

Like many other firefighters who participate in fundraisers, Stuart Evans feels a personal responsibility to take part in this event. After all, he was a friend of the event’s co-founder Jennifer Linn, who succumbed to soft-tissue sarcoma, a rare type of cancer, two years ago.

“There are not many people nowadays that haven’t been affected by cancer some way or another,” Evans said. “People know their money is making a difference.”

Firefighters should watch for stress symptoms

Firefighters should watch for stress symptoms

Firefighters should watch for stress symptoms

Individuals who wish to complete firefighter basic training and become professional rescue workers understand that this line of work comes with many challenges. As firefighters put their lives on the line every time they strap on a helmet, it should come as no surprise that this occupation has the potential to be incredibly stressful.

One of 2013’s most stressful jobs
Recently, job website CareerCast identified what it believes to be the 10 most stressful professions of 2013. In the third-place spot, just behind enlisted military personnel and military general was firefighter. Overall, this occupation had astress score of 60.45, which was based on multiple factors, including the role’s competitiveness, hazards encountered, amount of required travel and physical demands.

Why is firefighting so stressful?
According to CareerCast, the risks associated with rushing into burning buildings and dropping into forest fires are not the only reasons why firefighting is so stressful. There is also the fact that professionals in this line of work have a responsibility to protect people and property – not to mention themselves and their fellow firefighters.

A report from the U.S. Fire Administration and the International Association of Fire Fighters explained that despite advancements in the fire service industry, rescue workers are still losing their lives or becoming injured on the job.

The effects of stress
If individuals complete firefighter training and are unsure as to whether or not the stress of the job is taking a toll on them, they may want to figure out if they are showing the symptoms of this negative reaction to life’s demands. According to the Mayo Clinic, headaches, fatigue and sleep problems are all symptoms of stress. At the same time, it is not uncommon for individuals to feel restless, irritableor depressed, or become socially withdrawn.

Finding ways to cope with stress
A decade ago, firefighters and other first responders may not have acknowledged the stress they were feeling, Robert Czerwinski, fire chief for Massachusetts’ Pittsfield Fire Department, told The Berkshire Eagle. Today, however, individuals who hold these occupations are being taught to recognize their stress.

“Our heartbeat goes flying high and there are stressors building up in the body and the adrenaline is rushing while you’re driving to the scene,” Czerwinski said.

In Pittsfield, firefighters have an opportunity to meet with counselors through an employee assistance program, so that stress does not get the best of them.

Firefighters hit the ice for rescue training

 Firefighters hit the ice for rescue training

Firefighters hit the ice for rescue training

When people think of firefighters, images of brave professionals racing into burning buildings and persevering through high temperatures may cross their minds. While this is certainly true of firefighters, their services are sometimes needed in very frigid locations as well, such as icy bodies of water.

For this reason, it is not uncommon to see rescue workers participating in firefighter rescue training on icy ponds and lakes during the winter, as they never know when they will need to respond to a call at one of these locations. Here are two examples of how firefighters are preparing for these scenarios:

Iowa firefighters learn about the dangers of hypothermia
If parts of a pond or lake have iced over, it is likely the water below is quite cold. Should anybody accidentally fall into frigid water, hypothermia could strike very quickly – even on warmer days. This is what firefighters recently learned at a training session in Ottumwa, Iowa, the Ottumwa Courier reported.

“Even if the water temperature is 90 degrees, that’s still below your body’s temperature of 98.6 degrees,” Captain Pat Short told the news source.

In addition to learning about the threat posed by hypothermia, firefighters were taught how to use specific hand signals during icy rescues. For example, when a professional is in the water making a rescue, the firefighters on shore need to wait for this individual to tap his or her head. This simple signal means it is time to start pulling his or her rope to safety.

Different bodies of water mean different rescue scenarios in Massachusetts
Firefighters from Massachusetts’ Auburn Fire Department also took advantage of winter conditions and held their annual pond rescue training session, New England Cable News reported. Those who participated in this session assumed the roles of victims and rescuers as they visited the pond next to their fire station.

For firefighters, this type of firefighter rescue training is essential, as every body of water is different. Ice is very unpredictable, and no two ponds freeze alike.

“If you’re not familiar with it, you may not know where the currents are and that’s where it’s going to freeze the least,” Captain Glenn Johnson of the Auburn Fire Department told the news outlet.

Ultimately, these two examples prove just how vital firefighter training for icy rescues is – especially in areas that are known to have frigid winters.

Christmas Eve shooting raises questions about firefighter safety

Christmas Eve shooting raises questions about firefighter safety

Christmas Eve shooting raises questions about firefighter safety

On Christmas Eve, William Spengler Jr. allegedly set a fire in Webster, New York, to lure firefighters into a trap. Spengler Jr. ended up taking his own life, but not before fatally shooting two firefighters and wounding two others, CNN reported.

This tragic incident is a reminder of the dangers firefighters face every time they put on their gear and respond to a call. For some, it serves as an example of why rescue workers need to be armed.

The case for firefighters with firearms
While firefighters already receive firefighter basic training, Kip Teitsort, a veteran police officer and paramedic, would like to see these individuals receive the same level of preparation as law enforcement, KY3-TV reported. Even though incidents similar to the one that occurred in New York last month do not happen frequently, Teitsort said these professionals are attacked on a daily basis. As a result, Teitsort believes firefighters and emergency medical technicians should be trained to carry and use firearms.

“… When I hear this sort of thing I get frustrated, because there is no change,” Teitsort told the news source, in reference to the recent shooting. “There is no recognition that violence in medicine exist. It is like this dirty little secret.”

Firefighters understand the risk
News of the Christmas Eve shooting may have shocked those who have never completed firefighter training, but professionals in this line of work, such as Florida’s Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters, understand the risks that come with rescue work.

“The moment you step out the door on a rescue, or truck, or ladder, you’re in a dangerous situation,” Wyse told First Coast News. “It could happen anywhere. So we always have to be mentally prepared to go into those situations.”

As firefighters are often the first people to arrive at the scene of an emergency, they never know what they will encounter. It is not uncommon for these unarmed professionals to be threatened by the very people they are trying to help.

While details from the New York ambush are certainly unsettling, Jacksonville firefighters are very familiar with tragic incidents involving rescue workers. In 1934, a firefighter was fatally shot when he responded to a call, while another firefighter was murdered in the 1970s on the night before he was set to retire.

Live fire training sessions help new firefighters understand the power of a fire

Live fire training sessions help new firefighters understand the power of a fire

Live fire training sessions help new firefighters understand the power of a fire

As of December 12, 2012, a total of 80 on-duty firefighters have lost their lives, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. While some deaths cannot be prevented, there is no denying that quality firefighter training can improve individuals’ chances of completing jobs in a safe and successful manner.

While there are several ways to train new firefighters, live fire training can be invaluable. Here are a few reasons why these sessions are so important based on recent live fire training drills:

A chance to see fire’s true power
When firefighters-in-training have an opportunity to participate in a live fire training session, they get to see what types of conditions they will encounter in the line of duty. In the case of Nebraska’s Grand Island Fire Department, live fire training is something they only take part in three or four times a year, KOLN-TV reported. In the most recent drill, the fire department was allowed to burn down a house that was owned by a church.

“A training like this is invaluable,” Tim Hiemer, Grand Island’s fire training division chief, told the news source. “… It’s an actual house so it behaves just like our other structural fires.”

Hiemer said that live fire training provides new firefighters with a chance to understand the power of a fire. Not only do they see how a fire grows, but what the best ways to put it out are.

A chance to gain confidence
As new firefighters are placed in a physical setting, they have an opportunity to work through controlled scenarios with actual flames. Dan Goeke was one of the firefighters who got to participate in the Grand Island training session.

“This is fun for us to get out here and get an opportunity to apply what we’ve been learning in the classroom, get out here and pick something up and use it instead of reading about it,” Goeke told NTV.

A chance to learn how to tackle actual fires
Silver City, New Mexico, was the site of another recent live fire training session, the Silver City Sun-News reported. During this drill, volunteer firefighters had an opportunity to learn more about structure fires, as well as the types of conditions they might encounter in future scenarios.

Those who participated in the live fire training session gained hands-on experience as they took turns running the hose and nozzle. They also learned about different kinds of ventilation and found out how to appropriately take on a blaze.

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