Did you ever wonder why a totally sane person would enter a building that was on fire? Perhaps some of the reasons may surprise you, though for the most part, being part of a skilled, well-equipped team is a common motivator. Driving big trucks with red lights may also factor into it. Let’s not go there for now.
Before a firefighter ever entered that building, he attended a Firefighter Level One course. There, he was trained in ladders, ropes, nozzles, and hose operations, and a great deal of time was spent wearing a self-contained air pack. Fire theory and basic operations were part of the many hours of classroom training.
And just when you think you have firefighting down to a science, the instructors at the fire academy introduce you to the dreaded fire building. That little hell-on-earth introduces the young firefighter to heat, smoke, and the inability to see. If your gear isn’t steaming when you come out, you did it wrong.
Most trainees love this training. It gives them their first taste of real firefighting. Others, perhaps the more intelligent, head for the hills and are never seen again.
Through training, motivation, and firefighting experience, the individual becomes a valuable member of the team. You have lifesaving skills and will now be called upon to use them. That is the person that enters a burning building: skilled, confident, and well equipped.
Now let’s talk about you, the homeowner. How is your firefighting training? Is your turnout gear in good shape and in-date? Is your air pack clean and ready to go? All very silly questions to ask a homeowner, but the questions make a point.
Your job, should you have a fire in your home, is to leave the building and call for help. If the fire is small enough to put out with an extinguisher, go ahead, but remember: You could lose your ability to breathe or see.
Talk about the possibility of fire with your family; make a map, and plan two escape routes from every room. Designate a meeting place away from the building. Have a fire drill and test the routes and meeting place. Once everyone is outside, stay outside!
Thanks to the people of Andover, we have the training and equipment to enter a burning building safely. That is our job. All we ask of you is to gather your loved ones and go to a safe place.
As we are all painfully aware, we still face another unseen danger. Our only defense is to listen to the scientists and medical professionals. I cannot, as your fire chief and safety advisor, stress enough the importance of wearing a mask in public, social distancing, and washing your hands.