Turning up the heat on Fire Science students at CCC


Fire Science students at Coconino Community College learn about fire behavior during a recent drill.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The fire burned, smoke and heat billowed from open doors, and then the students entered the building.

“It was very exciting, definitely gets the adrenaline going,” said Justin Roederer, second-year student in Fire Science at Coconino Community College. “I’d never been in a structure on fire before. It’s a lot different than a wildland setting.”

Roederer and 15 other CCC students participated in a live fire drill in November at the Flagstaff Fire Department’s training facility near the Wildcat Water Treatment Plant.

“Our objective is to introduce firefighters to the environment of live fires,” said Michael Duran, training officer for the Sedona Fire Department and lead instructor of Firefighter 1 and 2 classes at CCC. “The live fire is to give them exposure and to have respect for the fire.”

The day-long “Hot Drill” gave the students an up-close look at fire behavior, smoke levels, heat, and what a fire does when the doors to a building are opened and closed, Duran said. The students dealt with super-heated air and smoke. They learned about how water reacts to fire, the steam that’s created, the physics of fire behavior, and, in the end, how to attack a fire to bring it under control.

The students learned how to lay hoses, go inside and communicate with incident command. Dummies, called “Rescue Randys” simulated victims of the fire, and the students had to go into the building, find them in the smoke and fire and rescue them.

“The whole focus of the class is first of all for them to become state certified firefighters,” Duran said. “We’re teaching about safety more than anything.”

The CCC curriculum follows state and national standards, Duran said. The students checked and rechecked their gear, all of which is regularly tested. The students learned basic principles of building construction and fire behavior. They got to know their equipment, developed a “situational awareness,” while in the building, and got to know how to think under stress.

During the drill, a minimum of one instructor per three students was present to ensure safety, Duran said. And before the drill, the students participated in a variety of activities that built upon one another to get them ready to enter a building on fire.

“We try to get them ready for the job,” Duran said. “When we send them out after they’re done, they’re ready to start applying for jobs.”

The training is the first row of bricks for a foundation on a house the students are going to build for a career, Duran said. Nevertheless, once the students land a job as a firefighter, their training never ends.

After the drill, Duran said all of the students met the minimum requirements to test for the state.

“Everybody ended up doing very well in the class,” Duran said.

Roederer was born and raised in Flagstaff, and he graduated from Flagstaff High School in 2013. Right now, he works a seasonal temporary position with the Wildland Fire Crew for the city of Flagstaff. The crew performs prescribed burns, tree thinning and responds to fires when needed.

“I love the woods,” he said. “I love camping. I love being outside. I love helping people, too. So why not put it all together?”

Although the “Hot Drill” went well for Roederer, he said his company’s nozzle man didn’t control the fire well enough before the crew entered onto the second floor and they put themselves in a situation where they could really feel the heat. The crew’s captain saw the mistake and had them continue through the exercise to make sure they didn’t make the same mistake again.

“We all came out,” Roederer said. “We were all still breathing.”

Roederer said his immediate hope to work with the city of Flagstaff Fire Department. His training at CCC will make it possible for him to hire on with experience most fledgling firefighters can only get at a fire academy.

“It was a very well rounded learning experience,” he said. “It’s absolutely an awesome experience.”


Thursday, 7th April 2016

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  • Thursday, 7th April 2016