Independence leaders learn firefighting first hand

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - Saturday city leaders in Independence, Missouri, walked straight into a burning building.  They weren't alone and it was a controlled burn, but the drama was still real.

"It's hot. It's dark. You can't see a thing.  You understand how much it takes, the communication," said recently re-elected Independence Mayor, Eileen Weir.

The Independence Fire Department invited city leaders to see the challenges a firefighter faces on a daily basis.

Boots, turnout gear, oxygen tank, face mask -- it all adds up to about 46 pounds.  Now add on extra weight if you're carrying a hose upstairs, or water has drenched the fire-resistant material.

Mayor Weir and city manager Zach Walker both focused on directions of a fire captain as he explained what to do in their two man groups at the training center.

Many veteran firefighters explained their own tricks, which may include anything from carrying an ax to extend your searching capabilities to hanging to one side of the building.

"You may get claustrophobic," said Don Rickman, captain with IFD, as he gave directions to some of the city's employees.
Crews described the demo as "good visibility" though a normal person would find it difficult to see.
"Sometimes we have to tell ourselves to slow our breathing down, to control it to conserve our air," said Rickman.
That's one reason firefighters said ventilation is so important.
That's the ladder truck company's responsibility when they get to a fire.
"It's charged with a lot of smoke. You want to get it out of there as fast as you can," explained Kirk Stobart, president of Independence's firefighter union, IAFF Local 781.
In Independence they are running two or three firefighters on those trucks.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends five or six.
"They have to set a ladder up on a roof. They have to carry chainsaws, axes, cut holes," said Stobart.
Union officials hopes the new city budget will provide for more manpower so they can be prepared from every angle.
"It's always unexpected. You never know what's going to happen. Every house fire is different," said Stobart.
The budget goes before the city council on May 15.  

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