Live fire exercise – video

I really did try to get more footage from our live fire exercise than I finally ended up getting. The reason is quite simple: our first attack was into such a hot fire that the GoPro case melted enough to leave the start/stop button inoperable. And since I’m not one to take my phone with me into that amount of heat, I had no way of starting and stopping the recordings. So the only helmet cam footage is from when I went into the smoke during our first attack.

Trust me, although it goes dark as soon as we enter the building, it was hot and smoky for the next three minutes until we put out the fire and started venting. But the video is also a realistic version of what it really looks like when fire fighters enter a burning structure. The high visibility and pretty flames you see on TV and in movies are fiction.

P.S. You can see what my helmet and GoPro looked like after the first attack on Instagram. Although note that I’d already cleaned up the lens to make sure the case was still usable.

Inside a burning house

Finally got the video from our live fire exercise edited. A more detailed post on lessons learned etc. coming later on. Now back to watching the overtime of Germany vs Algeria…

Burning down a house

Whenever we at the fire department get a chance to burn down a house that would otherwise be torn down, we jump at the opportunity. Burning a real building and exercising technique on how to move and put out structural fires is always better when the location real.

Admittedly, we held the exercise two months ago so these pictures have been a long time coming. This time I also had a GoPro attached to my helmet shooting video footage from inside the structure. Editing that will probably take another two months knowing me ;)

BTW, if there is any interest for any of these images as a wallpaper, give me a shout and I’ll see what I can do.

Smoke, heat, and some flames – pictures from inside a burning house

You all know how in the movies structural fires have these nice flames and no smoke at all, right? Well, the truth is quite far from it – at least in the beginning. A few weeks ago our station had a live fire exercise in a house that would have otherwise been torn down.

For us to stay current with our training, we have to have at least one exercise per year in full gear and in hot conditions. That is, we have to train with live fire either in a simulator or by setting fire to a structure and putting it out repeatedly. Alas, most years we have to satisfy ourselves with simulators since finding suitable structures that are going to be torn down is difficult.

As with real fires, gearing up properly is extremely important and we check each others gear before going into the smoky and hot building. In most cases, at least if the structure can still be saved, the rooms are filled with smoke and heat. Moving around in an unfamiliar structure where visibility is minimal is done by crawling and touching everything.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get really big fires going between the pairs that went in so in most cases I didn’t get any suitable pictures since without any flames it was extremely dark.

However, once the ceiling caved in over one of the rooms, we got a movie-like fire going on that I could photograph a bit. By this time being in the building was already quite hazardous since the house had been burning for some time and shooting time was very limited.

Of course, once we can’t practice inside, we complete the teardown by burning the house in a controlled fashion while protecting the surrounding areas.

All in all, all of us got to go in at least once – I think most managed to go in twice. I went in once without a camera and then six or seven times with the camera. As you can imagine, I was feeling quite toasty after the last time. Shooting while completely covered in turnout gear and the breathing mask is challenging – especially when shooting with an older camera without live view. I used our backup, the 30D for this shoot since I’ll never risk our primary inside a burning building.

More pictures in our gallery. You might also be interested in the pictures from our previous live fire exercise in 2008.

Are emergency call locations public?

This topic has been on my mind quite a bit lately as we’ve been working on a system to automatically publish information on the calls we (the North Karelia Rescue Department) get. I was originally planning on writing in Finnish about it, but the story (via) on Seattle Post-Intelligencer on how the Seattle FD changed its feed to prevent from automatically displaying call locations on a map spurred me to write about in English first.

Continue reading Are emergency call locations public?