Asst. Chief Roger Stewart of Oak Bay Fire Department crawls out of a box of entangled wires that he navigated blindfolded with full gear and air tank. The simulated set up creates a ‘mayday’ scenario where the firefighter is blindfolded and in distress. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Oak Bay firefighters endure intense ground survival training

Props for the exercise based on fatality scenarios

It’s an intense week for the Oak Bay firefighters as they run a training session that features several scenarios based on firefighter fatalities.

To truly prepare for the worst, they do it blindfolded.

An entire bay at Oak Bay Fire Hall was darkened and filled with props while the firefighters, one at a time, had to find his way out. The props, and the trailer, are from the International Association of Firefighters Ground Survival Training program. The trailer travels B.C., stopping at different fire departments.

READ MORE: Firefighters from around B.C. hit Saanich for fire ground survival training

“The main props are based on firefighter fatalities,” said Oak Bay firefighter Riley Ireland, who completed the training on Friday. “This gives you training in a situation of high stress.”

The situation starts with the firefighter calling mayday into the radio. They then follow the hose to the exit. The trick is the hose is wound through the various obstacles. Some are easier, a mattress, or a piece of wood.

One prop is a steel wall with a 16-inch gap between wall studs that firefighters have to pull themselves through, replicating their own escape if they had to punch out a section of drywall. Another prop is the wire tunnel. Television cables, phone cables and other cords are a major threat for firefighters crawling through smoky, dark conditions and have proved fatal.

“It’s invaluable experience,” said Asst. Chief Roger Stewart, who did the training Friday, the first in his 23-year career. “Your brain doesn’t operate like you think it will. It goes to the lowest common denominator in these high-stress situations.”

Firefighters are prepared with presentations of simulated mayday incidents before being sent in. The trick with the wires is to lie on your back and put the hose over top. Wire cutters are also recommended.

To crawl through a wall, firefighters pull off their air tank and, while still breathing through it, place it in between their legs and crawl backwards through the wall.

“That lowest denominator has to be our training. That’s the only thing we can rely upon in these stressful situations. You have to breathe calmly. That’s why we can make it out of there with air in our bottles.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Three people facing mischief charges after protests at Premier John Horgan’s home

Special prosecutor was appointed to avoid real or perceived undue influence

Crime stats show a shift in Oak Bay during COVID-19

Thefts from automobiles, marinas up this spring

Victoria dealer sells Batmobile replica at Arizona auction

Tim Quocksister sells Batmobile replica for $165,000 US at auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Eight people arrested on Pandora Avenue after enforcement order issued

Those living in homeless camps were given until May 20 to move indoors

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

COVID-19 cases next to nil on Vancouver Island

Only one COVID-19 patient being treated at Island Health’s hospitals

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

44% fewer passengers flew on Canadian airlines in March 2020 than in 2019

COVID-19 pandemic has hit airlines hard as travel remains low

Commercial rent relief applications open as feds encourage landlords to apply

Program would see government cover 50 per cent of the rent

COVID-19: B.C. park reservations surge as campgrounds reopen

Keep trying, many sites not reservable, George Heyman says

B.C. residents can now reserve a provincial campsite for a stay starting June 1

Campsite reservations will only be available to British Columbians

Cullen commission into money laundering in British Columbia resumes today

Inquiry was called amid growing concern that illegal cash was helping fuel real estate, luxury car and gambling

Most Read