Arvada Citizens Fire Academy

Fire engines, lines, ladders, bunker gear, hazmat suits, CPR training, and the list goes on and on and on. I had so much fun with the Arvada Citizens Fire Academy. I was a big kid for six weeks.

Back in May, we received one of the city magazines in the mail. For some reason, I decided to flip through it. As I was flipping through, I came across an image for the academy. I had to do a double take.

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I immediately signed up.

Week 1 - The Fire Chief

Our first week started out at Arvada’s Training Center were we met the Fire Chief. He talked numbers and logistics. That might sound boring, but it really wasn’t. It was super interesting learning how the fire department operates.




Week 2 - Water/Ice Rescue

Our second week we met at station 2 to learn about swift water rescue and ice rescue. The night started off with a presentation about what they did and how they did it. We saw videos of past rescues and learned their process. It was really interesting to see how they approach a situation and how they assess the situation.

We then went into the station to see all the equipment and tools they use. This is where I became a big kid. I loved learning what what tools they use for each situations. I could easily say that for each station.


Week 3 - Wildland

Our third week, we headed to station 8. I frequently pass station 8 on my way to work. I really enjoyed walking into the station and seeing what they actually do. One of the things I found interesting, each station has a specialty. This station deals with wild fires. In CO. there is always a threat of wild fire. We had one a few miles away a few years back when lighting struck a mountain. It was interesting to learn the methods for approaching a fire. Sometimes, they try to create a stop gap. They will remove all possible vegetation to prevent the fire from spreading. Or they might start a fire to burn down vegetation in the area.

This particular team deploys all over the place. They aren’t limited to just the surrounding areas. If neighboring states have a large fire, this station might be called to provide assistance.

Week 4 - EMS

This was by far my favorite station of the academy. The reason it was my favorite, we learned life saving skills. We learned about CPR and AEDs for two hours. We learned when to start and stop CPR. We learned how an AED works and how to use it. We also had the chance to practice CPR.

Shortly after, Anna and I signed up for a CPR/AED and first-aid course through the American Red Cross. We are now both certified for CPR. In addition, there is an app called Pulse Point. It is an app you install on your phone. If a bystander calls into dispatch for a person who is unconscious and needing CPR, it will notify anyone in a short walking radius. At the time of this post, Pulse Point has had 80,283 activations, notifying 277,098 nearby responders.

Did you know that 97% of the calls are EMS related?

Week 5 - Hazmat

Station 4 typically receives two calls a year. Not a lot, but also can be a scary situation. We learned all about the different types of suits they wear, depending on the situation. We also learned about the different tools they use to identify chemicals and how they could impact the body.

They had also a new ladder truck they wanted to show off.

Week 6 - Tech Rescue

I wasn’t completely sure what to expect when I went to station 5, based on the title. Tech rescue deals with building collapses. Crawling to confined areas to find people. Rappelling off of buildings, down sewer drains, across expanses, etc. I think they should change the name to Super Tech Rescue.

Hands On Day

The Saturday following the tech rescue day, we had the opportunity to try our hand at being a fire fighter. When Anna and I arrived, we were fitted with bunker gear. Bunker gear is the gear the fire fighters wear. I was able to find some gear that fit me, but most of it was too big for Anna. Luckily, they had suspenders.

Maze

The first activity we did was the maze. This was pretty challenging. They had taken a shed, and built a simulated three story building inside of it. From the outside it didn’t look that big. On the inside, you were provided with a rope as a guide and had to crawl on your stomach through the building. We went up a ladder, crawled under wires, over parts where the floor was missing, parts where walls had fallen over, down stairs, and finishing it off, over a floor that collapsed into a pit of foam halfway through. We worked as partners. I started out crawling through, describing to Anna everything I was experiencing. Halfway through, we switched and Anna took the lead. It was really challenging and super sweaty. I really enjoyed working with Anna as a team.

Hose

Our second activity was the fire hose. We had four people in our group as we rotated through each station. We first started off by standing. I volunteered to be at the front. The job of the first person is to direct the water to the appropriate destination. The job of the other people is to push the hose forward. That takes all the pressure off the first person so they can concentrate on where to put the water. They had setup multiple targets for us to hit. Spraying the water was a lot of fun. It was really easy to move the hose. I then rotated to the back and held the hose. When you are holding the hose, you are pressing it forward into the person in front of you. My forearms were burning. It was intense.

We then tried a different method, which was a one person operation. That would be great if you just need to lay down water for an extended period of time. You loop the hose over itself, then sit on the point where they cross. It makes using the hose very simple to operate.

The PSI from the hose was 110 psi. That was just the pressure from the hydrant. During a real fire, they would crank up the fire engine to bring the pressure between 150 and 190 psi.

It was a lot of fun.

Bucket Ride

Truck 6 was onsite with its bucket. The bucket ride was super chill.

Quick side note, a fire engine carries between 600 and 1000 gallons of water inside. A truck doesn’t. Truck 6 doesn’t carry water with it, it connects to a hydrant and helps pump water.

We took a ride with Brian and Joe, I believe were their names, from Station 8 and 6. We reached a max of 95 feet at a 71 degree angle. The picture shows 68 degrees, but we went a bit higher. I really enjoyed Arvada from that height. I feel like I know a lot of the major parts, but seeing it at that height, really gave me a new appreciation. The other part I really appreciated was having a conversation with both fire fighters. We talked about why they became fire fighters, family life, smart watches, and how they use the bucket. I really enjoyed the time we spent with them.

Auto Extrication

Also known as the Jaws of Life. If I had to pick one of my favorite activities, this would probably be it. All the activities were fun, but this one was fun and challenging from a mental and physical perspective. When we arrived there was a whole Saturn sitting there. It didn’t know what was in store for it. By the time we got to the car, three of the doors had been removed, along with the roof, and the trunk. It was a sad sight. We still got to do some disassembly though. We had the driver’s side door still left and the dash. I had the pleasure of using the spreaders

Something I didn’t know, they have spreaders and cutters. The spreader would be used on a door to pry it open or help peal it back. It is used to make enough space for cutters to get in there and cut through some metal. I had the chance to ram the spreaders in between the driver’s side door and the B pillar. The B pillar is the middle pillar of the car, behind the driver. The plan was to pry open a locked door, presumably with people trapped inside. I picked up the spreaders and holy smokes was it heavy. It weighs around 45 lbs. In the gym, picking up a 45 lb plate isn’t that challenging. The spreaders, completely different story. You are really supporting the entire thing with your left hand and your right hand is operating the device, while at the same time, trying to jam it repeatedly in the right spot to pry open the door. My left forearm was burning. Because the roof had been removed, there wasn’t a whole lot of structural integrity left to the car. So, every time I put the spreaders in place, the B pillar would move, not allowing me to get a good position. Eventually we got it.

The rest of the team members got the door off. Anna then proceeded to cut the body frame that is behind the fender. The cutters weight close to 50 lbs. When that piece separated, I was able to use the spreaders again to lift up the dash off the person. The situation was a front end collision, with the dash pinning the person down.

Talk about sweat running down my back. Woh. It was intense.

Final Thoughts

I loved the Arvada Citizen’s Fire Academy. It was such an amazing experience. I learned a lot and met a lot of people. During our final day, the Citizen’s Emergency Response Team (CERT) did a presentation. They have a five week program starting in August. Anna and I plan to take the course where we’ll learn about

  • Emergency preparations

  • Utility controls (gas, water, and electric)

  • Fire safety and small fire suppression

  • Search and rescue

  • Emergency medical treatment

  • Terrorism

  • Disaster psychology

We are really excited to learn new skills and hopefully never have to use them.

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