Pritchard, Povlsen extinguish flames at fire safety demonstration

By Joe Olmo

DeKALB | Many boys grew up wanting to be a pro sports player, a policeman or a firefighter, but never actually stick with that dream. For a couple hours Monday, I got a chance to be a firefighter with the DeKalb Fire Department.

Instead of taking my career courses in journalism, I got to participate in Fire Ops 101. The fire department hosted a four hour event that featured a controlled fire burn, a live burn, car extrication and a search and rescue as a part of firefighter training and a hands on experience for elected public and state officials as well as people in the media.  

This wasn’t a way for the department to show off, it was an opportunity to see what is involved when a situation ensues.

“This is a way to try to communicate with the community,” said DeKalb Fire Chief Bruce Harrison.

Officials such as Ill.-Representative Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley) and DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen were on hand to participate in the event.

“I was impressed with the complexity of each job that it takes to execute such an operation,” Povlsen said. “It’s not just a bunch of guys running around shooting water at flames.”

That’s definitely something I learned from this experience. Each firefighter has their own tasks they must perform for the next person to do their part.

But before I got the chance to go into a house while a fire was inside, I had to get into the gear. The fire suit was pretty heavy, but the challenging part was putting on the face-mask and learning to breathe with the air tank attached. After making sure everything was secure, we made our way into the house. I was teamed with Pritchard, and we had to crawl on our knees and follow the hose to the fire. I worked the nozzle and he looked for a victim. Once the fire was under control, we had to drag the victim (a dummy), out of the house while still on our knees.

After taking a break, firefighters let me go on the roof of the garage to do some ventilation work. They explained why they ventilate a burning building and showed me the procedures to make sure it was done correctly and safely. The ventilation is done to let the smoke rise and not stay trapped inside the building.

After getting the run through, they handed me the axe. I put about eight strikes into the roof to loosen the shingles. Then, they gave me the chainsaw and explained the proper way to start it and steer it; I got to cut into the roof and take a section out of it. I was one of four people to do both exercises.

Overall the experience was a great way to understand what we have as part of our community. I remember standing there saying out loud “This is awesome,” and one of the firefighters walked by me and simply said, “This is why we do it.”