Create an Account - Increase your productivity, customize your experience, and engage in information you care about.
There are many words a firefighter never wants to hear when they’re on the scene of an incident. “Firefighter down” is near the top of that list.
But every member of the Minot Fire Department knows they could hear those words on any call they respond to, whether it’s a fire, a medical assist, or a vehicle accident.
In early June, during the hottest week of the year so far, members of the Minot Fire Department spent time at the department’s training grounds preparing themselves in case they ever hear those words.
During a live fire training scenario, members of the department practiced battling a basement fire, then were thrown a curve ball when those dreaded words came across the radio: “Mayday, mayday, mayday.”
Immediately, the mission changed from not only extinguishing a fire, but rescuing one of their own crew members. At every scene, at least two firefighters are designated as the Rapid Intervention Team (RIT). Their job is to be constantly ready to assist any fallen firefighter. They perform other duties on the scene, like tending to ladders and changing air bottles, but they must always be prepared to assist a fellow firefighter.
“We start with easier scenarios, live putting out a fire. This time, we worked on building our skills by adding a scenario where a firefighter goes down, whether it be from a heart attack, they are injured or lost, or in this case, they passed out,” said Capt. Devin Walter, the department’s training officer. “The goal was to get the fallen firefighter up the stairs and out of danger as quickly as possible.”
Walter said when a firefighter calls “mayday,” the incident commander must make a decision: Stop what they’re doing and focus on the rescue, or continue to fight the fire and keep the downed firefighter out of danger.
“This scenario means they have to prioritize what they’re doing. On average, it takes five firefighters to get one unconscious firefighter out of danger, and that’s why we practice these scenarios,” Walter said. “We can’t help put out a fire or save a structure if we’re in danger ourselves.”
Such scenarios are scheduled for a number of reasons, Walter said.
“These scenarios help someone who might be an acting captain run a fire scene, or it might be a new firefighter’s first exposure to live fire,” he said. “We’re always trying to prepare each person for their next role.”
At the June training session, the fallen firefighter was successfully rescued, and the effort continued to extinguish the blaze. Once all crew members were safely outside the structure and accounted for, the firefighters removed their gear, cooled off, and moved into the classroom.
“We always have an after action review where we talk about how the scenario went, how we did in communicating with each other, what worked and what didn’t work,” Walter said. “Most importantly, we want to discuss what we’ve learned so we can make improvements next time.”