Do not try this at home

Fire ops 101 is a new kind of training

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Participants in the Fort Dodge Fire Department’s inaugural Fire Operations 101 class watch as a simulated living room is set on fire.

The common warning, “Don’t try this at home,” can be applied to many things.

On Saturday, during the Fort Dodge Fire Department’s last session of its inaugural two-day Fire Operations 101 class, that warning could easily be stenciled on the couch, TV and drapes in the built-to-destroy living room they set on fire.

The inaugural class members were members of the Fort Dodge City Council, city officials and several of The Messenger’s staff.

Torching the living room and its contents was a demonstration — a hot smoky demonstration — of just how quickly a small fire can turn into a raging inferno.

And why trying to put the fire out is an awful idea.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
David Fierke, Fort Dodge city manager, watches as the simulated living room is ignited.

Don’t try that at home either. It’s dangerous.

Kim Alstott, a City Council member, watched the plume of roiling black smoke.

“They told us there’s 60 different kinds of hazardous chemicals in that,” he said. “It can put you down really fast. All your furniture has oil in it.”

Watching a living room go from a small fire to inferno in about 5 minutes wasn’t the only learning experience.

Alstott also got to run the hose.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Jon Schreck, a Fort Dodge firefighter, watches as a trail of flammable liquid ignites the “living room.”

“When you’re working the nozzle, that’s a lot of pressure,” he said.

Lydia Schuur, another council member, was impressed with the class and the firefighters.

“We got to watch them do an extraction from a vehicle,” she said. “When they do that normally, there’s a person in there. They work so well.”

The various sessions were conducted at the fire station and the training center. The training structure there offered her a chance to do something she would probably never do at home.

“I got to rappel out of a four-story window,” she said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
At the end of the day, the participants got to enjoy a warm backside as they lined up for a group photo before the fire in the simulated living room behind them was extinguished.

She found the face mask of the breathing gear the firefighters wear a bit claustrophobic.

“It was for me,” she admitted.

Schuur is also not fond of going out of four-story windows.

“While I was nervous and scared, it was my own fears,” she said. “They’re so good at what they do, though. I trust them.”

Messenger City Editor Bill Shea, who was once a volunteer firefighter, didn’t enjoy the four-story experience either.

“I’m going to call that a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “I’m not sure I’m going to do that again.”

Messenger reporter Peter Kaspari made up for it, though; he went out the window four times.

Council member Terry Moehnke liked the class and the concept for introducing the public to the firefighters jobs.

“It’s a good opportunity to what they go through,” he said. “It’s a great insight into their job.”

He, too, enjoyed going out the window.

“I really liked that I didn’t hurt myself.”

The class, which Chief Steve Hergenreter said is organized to help teach the public about the many facets of what firefighters do, will be offered to the public in the future.

“We’re looking at doing it in late spring and maybe mid-October,” he said. “We will open it up to citizens.”

He hoped that the council, and future class members, take away an appreciation of firefighters’ skills and craft.

“We hope they get an understanding of the multifaced disciplines that a firefighter of today has to master,” he said. “It’s everything from paramedicine to fire science to rescue techniques. The average citizen has little idea of all the different public safety expertise needed to do the job.”

Council member Dean Hill also took the class.

“It was pretty intense for all the participants,” he said. “But we absolutely had a lot of fun.”