GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Several new recruits for the Grand Junction Fire Department underwent a trial by fire Thursday as they battled thick black smoke and 800 degree temperatures.
Fire crews clipped in, buttoned down, and pulled on gear as they prepared to enter a burning house on 3rd Street. A first for two new recruits to the Grand Junction Fire Department.
Benjamin Blehm and Patrick Dibsie had felt 800 plus degree heat before, but not like this. "It's really hot, definitely wasn't what I was expecting," says Blehm. Dibsie says it was, "Surprisingly hot."
"You can read about it all you want in a text book or something but actually seeing it and feeling how hot it is it's really important," Blehm says.
Catholic Outreach let the Grand Junction Fire Department use one of their old houses for the training. Crews used mostly old pallets to set fires in different rooms of the house. "Hot enough that even in our great gear that we have it just pushes you to the floor," says Dibsie.
Fire officials say across the nation firefighters have been injured and even killed in training exercises like this one, but say they use every safety precaution necessary. They also say that it's important to train like it's the real thing. "Just as any sports team practices to get better we need practice," says Jim Curtis, a firefighter overseeing the training.
Firefighters say live fire training like this one not only helps new recruits train for the real thing it helps build teamwork and trust in their fellow firefighters.
Bob Hedrick, a new recruit for the Grand Junction Fire Department, but with 20 years experience from another state, says, "It's called a brotherhood and its just that for a reason we're relying on each to be able to protect each other and look out for each other."
Inside the burning house the new recruits saw first hand how firefighters can't rely on sight alone. Dibsie says, "The other team was a couple feet in front of us, we couldn't even see them."
Recruits also learned how to stay calm to extend the air in their oxygen tanks. "Just gotta take a deep breath at the door and keep breathing slowly through it," says Dibsie. That way when it comes down to the real thing they'll be able to keep your home from going up in flames.