In 80-degree weather, with 50 pounds of gear strapped on their backs and a 20-foot drop to the ground before them without a ladder, Springfield Fire Division’s newest recruits were having the time of their lives.
“Today was probably the funnest part,” said Derek Shenefield, one of six firefighter/paramedic recruits in training who will be sworn in as a new firefighter next week. “It’s a great way to get out of an environment that you don’t want to be in, that you’re body can’t withstand.”
In an abandoned house on East Northern Avenue on Friday, the recruits — along with five students from Clark State Community College — ran through drills of how to bail out of a home quickly when fire and smoke is intense and the main route may be blocked. It was the final day of lessons following 10 weeks of training, said Lt. Dan Beekman.
“We learn a lot about how we protect property, how we protect people and their lives,” he said. “But today is all about saving yourself and saving your teammate’s lives.”
Recruits practiced using a rope and ax to craft a rappelling system to safely descend from a second-floor window. They also learned how to use a fire hose as a rope to slide down from top floors, and how to quickly descend a ladder face-first. Harnesses were used to make sure no one was hurt in the process, but Beekman said in real life they’ll have only the gear they’re wearing.
“We are trying to teach them mechanics, trying to teach them how to do things correctly just so that it may become muscle memory if they have to do any one of these things in a split second,” Beekman said.
Sarah Campbell , a 17-year-old Greenville High School student, was among the trainees. Friday’s lessons were the most exhilarating for her, and the most challenging.
“One of my biggest fears is jumping out of windows,” she said. “You just have to go with it and trust your instincts and be confident.”
Some of the recruits got tangled up in the rigging, and one had minor injuries when he landed wrong after sliding down the hose. It’s a lesson, Beekman said, that even in training “not everything is perfect and pretty” but all that matters is saving your life.
“I’m very proud of them. They’re all going to make great firefighters,” he said.
A graduation ceremony will be held Friday, Aug. 9, at City Hall, 76 E. High St., beginning at 2 p.m.