Imagine walking up a 40-foot ladder on a windy day. As the ladder shakes with every step, adrenaline and fear starts pumping through your body. Now imagine that the building in front of you is on fire, flames engulfing the second floor.
For many of us, it's a nightmare situation. For firefighters, it's just another day on the job. And that's why the students in the Logansport Fire Department's firefighting class spent several hours Saturday morning training for such a scenario.
The group is in the middle of their Firefighter I session, and Saturday's lessons included ladder training. LFD Captain Gary Chambers and firefighter Brian Iles led the instruction, which focused on ascending and descending ladders while wearing full gear and carrying an ax or a fire hose.
It's all about making the students comfortable and aware of their surroundings, Chambers said. And practice makes perfect.
"The main thing is you have to just do it," Chambers said. "If you go to a scene and have never been on a 35-foot ladder or you've never been in a ladder truck at 90 feet, you don't know what will happen. If you've done it five, 10, 15 times, you know what wind feels like up there or how much that basket is going to sway on a windy day. So then you can just do your job."
But even Chambers said being that high up on a ladder can sometimes be intimidating.
"I would not use the word fear, but you do have respect for the job you're doing because you can fall," he said. "People have fallen and gotten hurt, so you trust your training. You train like you work and know that the equipment's strong enough to do its job."
It's also important to understand ladder safety, Chambers continued, whether it means maintaining three points of contact on the ladder at all times or learning how to use a "leg lock" maneuver for stability.
Braxton Early is one of the class' students, and he's also a volunteer firefighter in Twelve Mile. During a break in the action on Saturday, Early talked about the value of ladder training, especially when it relates to real world situations.
"It's very good to know when you're in the heat of the moment that you know what you're doing," he said. "When you get to a call, you know exactly what to do, so when your adrenaline's rushing, it's just second nature."
The students also practiced forcible entry on Saturday, another important lesson in the road to becoming a full-time firefighter.
Another opportunity coming up for the students to hone their skills is a live burn that will occur in mid-May before the course wraps up in June.
Reach Kim Dunlap at email@example.com or 574-732-5150.