Emergencies involving fire are very common yet unavoidable at times. Thanks to many fire stations available, the fire incidents are being curbed, many lives have been saved, properties and better still some fires have been prevented as soon as a threat is identified. The sound of the sirens from the fire brigade had become very common to my ears as I grew up, I felt the need to understand fully what it entails to be part of the rescue teams as my skills might be relevant someday. Many have perished by simply trying to put off the fire but then due to ignorance end up as victims. I kept on asking myself this question, ”what if one day I will be directly involved in such an incident? Would I be of any help to my people?” This paper thus examines the experience that I encountered while serving as an intern at a fire station for two weeks in which I was delighted to be part of the rescue team.
In as much as two weeks is short time to gain experience, my own case was totally different. The experience I acquired during that time felt like I had been there for the longest time possible. The topic that I learnt includes the roles and responsibilities of fire fighters, fire fighting techniques, smoke awareness and basic fire safety details, understanding the fire extinguishers and how to use them, hose and hydrant operation drills and finally the importance of good communication and team work. I learnt that there are different types of fires and each is treated differently, examples include; bush fires, transport fires, industrial and industrial fires.
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There is a specific incident in which I was privileged to witness to a rescue mission. It was among the most complex and intensive operation at a nursing home. Everyone in the station was busy moving around to rush to the site of fire outbreak. The incident occurred at 4:00 am when the automatic alarm sounded.
Supervisor: Hurry! Everyone gather around, we have an emergency!
Fire fighter 1: Where?
Supervisor: The nursing home is on fire! Everything is set for the rescue mission. We ought to be on site in the next ten minutes. Two alarms from the same nursing home! This means there are two separate wings on fire. On Arrival we will divide ourselves in the usual groups, you know the drill and the specific roles that each of you takes to ensure that the fire is put off and casualties minimized.
Chris: and what would our role be? We have never been on any rescue mission? It is barely a week since we joined the station.
(On the way to the nursing home),
Supervisor: Chris alongside the other interns, do not go into the building, that will be done by the professional fire fighters.
Chris: But why? I want to be part of the rescue team as well.
Supervisor: You will part of the team as well; you will help put the rescued residents at a safe place while the fire fighters go in to rescue more. It is very risky.
At the site of the incident it took the effort of the fire fighters together with police, nursing staff and ambulances to work together to minimize fatalities.. There were twenty fire appliances and approximately 100 fire fighters who managed to rescue the aged, sick and frail residents.
There were two fires that were intentionally lit in separate wings.
Fire fighter: This is complex indeed!
Officer in charge: First step is to identify the type of fire and its course so as to know how best to handle.
In this particular case, the first fire was lit in an unoccupied room. It was a small fire thus was easily contained within minutes after the fire fighters arrived. Fortunately there were no casualties from the first fire. The second fire was the complex one to deal with. It was lit in a room that was occupied and spread first across the wing leaving 21 people dead.
The fire had really spread thus becoming quite difficult to put it off. To make matters worse it was a building occupied by people who were not strong enough to help themselves out of the building. Many of the residents were aged 88 years and above making the work more difficult. The fire fighters however approached the situation with professionalism and experience. They divided themselves among groups and assisted in different capacities along side with the police and the ambulance. By then I was so nervous and didn’t even know what to do and understood better why the officer in charge insisted that we should not go in. Our duty then was to relocate the rescued victims to safer ground.
The major challenge we had was that both fires brought about a confusion and delay as well yet they required different interventions. The dense smoke engulfed the rooms resulting to zero visibility. “Make sure to watch out for the residents hiding behind furniture!” I reminded my team members as they moved inside the building. The collapsing of the ceiling boards too was an obstacle. I also learned that the mass rescue led to congestion. The fire fighters were evacuating the residents from the building while we the interns moved first to take them to designated safe zone. The rescued residents were still in shock and did not actually believe that they left the building alive.
Victim 1: What just happened? How did the fire start? I am so grateful that I managed to get out .I do not even understand how I got here. All I remember was that I was sleeping when I heard screams across the facility and commotion outside my room. I dragged my old self to the door and was met by dense smoke. Was standing there confused when I was knocked down…I must have passed out…I do not even remember being brought here.
Victim 2: me either! I was too scared to even move. Thank God the recue patrol came in the nick of time.
These were some of the conversations that were going on at the assembly point. Every one giving an account of the ordeal. Some of the families had rushed to the scenes as soon as they heard the news to check on their beloved ones.
We also assisted in moving those with minor injuries to the ambulances as the severe cases were handled by the medic team. The two hours in the operation was an extremely busy time with everyone running up and about trying to save lives.
There was a nurse next to me and this is what she had to say:
Nurse: This was a close call, I do not understand how the fire started! There is need for trainings and drills in organizations to all staff members annually. Upon an alarm alert the people in the building need to check the source of the fire before they start running to avoid moving towards the fire.
Chris: I could not agree more, I hope that such trainings will be implemented soon so that people can know how to handle fire emergencies before help arrives, that way many lives will be saved.”
In conclusion I would say that even though the two weeks was a short time for me to learn about fire and safety, there is a lot that I actually gained from the rescue operation at the nursing home. By having that firsthand experience, I got to understand the procedures that are carried out immediately an incident is reported, how it is handled and how the investigations about the incident are carried out. The knowledge that I acquired is enough to enable me save some lives when need arises.