This afternoon, I had the priviledge of participating in the same training that the new fire recruits go through.

I was actually at the "live burn" training session as a reporter for the Citizens Fire Academy Alumni Association newsletter, in which I am the editor of. My intentions were to take some photos of the training and have them published in our monthly newsletter.

Little did I know that the battalion chief that was in charge of the training was a high school friend of mine that I hadn't seen in over 30 years. I was surprised and so was he.

Anyway, myself and a photographer from NEWS 9 were there to take some photo ops, when the chief and few of the majors invited myself and the NEWS 9 photographer to get first hand experience as to what a firefighter goes through when entering in to a burning building. They supplied us with all the bunker gear, including the helmet and air tank.

Myself, NEWS 9, and the chief entered in to a room where they set some hay on fire. I was crouched in a corner, monitoring the infrared fire sensor. This fire sensor was able to show where the fire was, as well as give you the temperature of the fire.

At one time, it was a little over 400 degrees where I was sitting, and the fire itself was well over 1000 degrees. I sat there, breathing through the air tank, and feeling the heat against my bunker coat, and feeling the sweat roll off of my body. This was a controlled fire, so the chief advised me that if it got too hot for me, to let him know, and he would get me out right away.

Ad the recruits put the fire out, the temperature on the infrared sensor went down also. My helmet and bunker gear were soaked from the water hose spraying. Once they put the fire out, it was time to go up stairs to put out a fire on the second floor. The recruits went ahead of us, and the chief had me hold on to the back of his air tank so that I would stay with him. It was so smoky, I could not see a thing, except for the chief in front of me. He would let me know when to step over a hose, or when to step over any other obstacle in the way. We made it to the staircase and started up. My right hand was on his air tank, and my left hand was holding on to the infrared sensor and trying to hold on to the stair railing. I had to feel for the steps because I could not see them.

Once we got upstairs, the recruits opened the door on their hands and knees and found the other fire. They went in, shut the door, and then myself and the chief made our way down stairs...very slowly and carefully. Once we got out the door, I started taking the bunker gear off. My shirt and shorts were soaked all the way through with sweat, along with my face and head.

Today, I have a new respect for firefighters. I have always had a lot of respect for them before, but today I learned that their training has to be tough, because they have to be in the best possible shape in order to fight a fire. I don't know how much the bunker gear weighed, but it was heavy. I could hardly even bend over. I can't imagine trying to climb a ladder, carrying a water hose, and wearing all this gear.

I can't imagine going in to a burning structure, and not being able to see a thing, due to thick smoke. These firefighters do this on a daily basis, whether it is 20 degrees outside or 105 degrees. When they enter a burning structure, they have to stay low and feel their way through the building. That's especially tough when they are trying to find a person. Imagine wearing all of this gear and then having to carry somebody out of a building, weighing 150 pounds or more. Yes, I am more respectful of the job that firefighters do.

I have always wanted to go in to a burning building with bunker gear on just to see what it was like. I got my chance today, and I will never forget it.

Fire Recruits about to enter through a door onthe second story.

This is the building at 4600 Choctaw Rd, Choctaw, Okla. where the OKC Fire Recruits did
their "live burn" training.

A fire recruit inside the room on the second story spraying water out the window.

Fire recruits coming out of the "flashover" similator. They spend about 30 minutes inside this building, while fire shoots just over their heads.

This is me in the bunker gear before I went in to the firey, smoky, room. (I still can't figure out how to rotate this picture so that it is upright)

Moderator's Note: I rotated the picture for you, Keith.
- Patrick