By Jacob Mathias
Fire is hot.
“Duh,” says everybody.
A fire the size of a car is another thing entirely, especially when you’re tasked with extinguishing said fire.
This week, members of the Portage County Emergency Services Citizens’ Academy met at the Stevens Point city landfill for some casual firefighting. In an awesome gesture of perhaps too much faith, the Stevens Point Fire Department acquired two junked vehicles, which they set ablaze for us amateurs to extinguish.
It was awesome.
We suited up in full turnout gear: boots, fire retardant pants and jackets, oxygen mask and tank, and a helmet to top it all off. It’s all warm, heavy and cumbersome.
Two by two, we grabbed a hose and halligan — a type of crow bar — and walked right up to the blazing vehicle.
It was hot. The clothes were hot; the headgear was hot; the fire was hotter.
We weren’t placed at a reasonably safe distance in order to sprinkle a little water on the car. As the man with the halligan, I had to punch a hole in the hood of the car and pry it open to check for fire in the engine compartment.
It was a little unnerving, not knowing what kind of hell I might be unleashing from under that hood; fortunately, the fire hadn’t made it to the engine yet.
It was amazing watching my fellow classmates who, like me, had never done this before, throw relative reason aside and walk right up to the flames and unleash watery death upon them.
I can’t imagine doing it as a career.
Thanks to the Stevens Point Fire Department for volunteering their time to bring us such an awesome experience. It’s one we’ll never forget.
Stay tuned next week as I continue my education at the Citizens’ Academy.