For recruit, 500 hours of training comes to a head
September 29, 2013 8:00PM
Updated: November 1, 2013 6:13AM
Donna Feil braced herself when she woke up early Friday morning.
Nearly 500 hours of training would culminate in what was about to happen.
As one of six new recruits at the Aurora Fire Department, Feil was about to enter her first home filled with flames.
At 9 a.m., Feil and her fellow recruits strapped on their gear and prepared to fight some fires during their live-training exercise.
Firetrucks and ambulances sat on the sidelines near Church Road and Indian Trail as the recruits were prepped for their upcoming challenge.
Fire Capt. Toby Gill said the exercise is the most important event in a recruit’s training experience.
“Everything they have learned over the months comes down to this. It is physically demanding and stressful,” he said.
“We want to keep them as safe as possible but make things as real as we can.”
Firefighters spent days working at the old house on Church Road, preparing it for the burn.
The carpets were taken out, windows were boarded up, and the place was cleared until all that remained were pallets and hay meant to burn.
During their training, the recruits entered the house more than a half-dozen times, checking for victims, navigating the dark terrain, and learning how to best extinguish the fire at hand.
They moved from the kitchen to the bedrooms to the basement for each different exercise.
Gawkers crept along Church Road, staring as smoke billowed out the windows of the old, pink aluminum-sided home. When the fire was ready, a staged call was dispatched, and the recruits grabbed their axes, hoses and gear.
“This is their one and only chance to deal with a fire in a controlled environment,” Gill said. Experienced crew members were at the ready, as were additional hoses. Gill said it was important to keep the fire contained so it didn’t burn down the structure on the first attempt.
The staging of the scene did not, however, take away Feil’s excitement.
“This is the culmination of everything we have worked for,” the young recruit said. “It is very exciting.”
New recruit Bob Burdue was in the same boat as Feil when he entered the burning home Friday morning.
“This is my first live burn,” he said. “I have been looking forward to it for seven weeks. This is as close as you will get to the real thing without having an actual live situation.”
— Erika Wurst