Fire Fighter Training – Great Lakes 1980

There were several groups of us that would go through an exercise where a team of 4 or 5 guys would go into a cement block building to fight a fire. Inside was a raised steel grate floor with burning fuel below and jets of burning fuel being sprayed in various directions. We were given an Oxygen Breathing Apparatus (OBA) to use as we went in. These devises would provide up to 60 minutes of air but the timer was set to 45 minutes to provide a buffer.

The interesting thing was that all of the groups would use the same OBA’s . So the first team had no worries. The last team would wonder if the tank was going to run out on them while they were fighting the fire.

So there I was, in the last group, lined up with our backs against the exterior wall waiting to go into the building with flames coming out the door and my timer was going off. About the same time the instructor told us to get going, so in we went. I was the third man on the fire hose and we went in sweeping the fire and beating it back. We were well inside the building when I ran out of air. I removed the mask and tapped the should of the guy ahead of me so I could move up in position.

I remembered that they had said you could get some air off the hose if you were the nossleman. So I moved up until I was running the hose. Sweeping the hose back and forth I started feeling pretty good, until I heard some laughing. I could see the instructors in the background and figured it was them laughing but I really didn’t know why until I looked back on my hose. No one was there. My whole team had left me. Evidently, their OBA’s had ran out of air as well and they left me to fight the fire myself.

Once the trainers knew the gig was up they shut down the fire and let me out of there. It actually felt pretty good to know I didn’t freak out in there.

I had just been thinking tonight that I was glad that boot camp had prepared me for some extraordinary events that I might experience in the Navy career. Luckily I never had to fight a fire on a ship but those kind of experiences give you some perspective on what to get excited about and what you are able to handle when you prepare for it.


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