The Edmond Sun

June 25, 2013

SLIDESHOW: Fire recruits learn how to breach structure

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — In a situation where a victim is trapped inside a structure, seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

Tuesday morning during an exercise simulating breaching a wall, Edmond Fire Department recruits used a bathroom window to create exit space, a process that took only a couple of minutes using tools including a chainsaw.

Midwest Wrecking, the company that handled the demolition for the upcoming Public Safety Center, let the Fire Department use one of their properties, an aging and abandoned home located just south of downtown Edmond near Stephenson Park.

Jon Neely, the Fire Department’s chief training officer, thanked the company for granting use of the structure and he praised the efficiency of the recruits in their efforts during the drill.

Neely said the scenario was a firefighter being trapped with a victim. The firefighter radioed in a “mayday” distress call. Team members sized up the structure from the exterior, and due to the good reports from the interior crew, rescuers knew their location.

“The easiest and quickest way to get them out was to convert a small window into a door; which is a simple process,” Neely said.

“Normally on a residential structure like the one used, it only takes two cuts down from either side of the window, in this case a bathroom window,” Neely said. “They pulled the bottom out and rather than follow the search line inside, the trapped firefighter and victim were out in a matter of minutes,” Neely said.

The longer a victim remains in a burning structure, the less chance of survival they have not due to the flames but to carbon monoxide in the smoke, Neely said. Carbon monoxide is difficult to get out of the body once it is in the system, he said.

Often called “the silent killer,” carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil and methane) burn incompletely, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 80,000 non-fire carbon monoxide incidents in which the gas was found, or an average of nine such calls per hour. The number of incidents increased 96 percent from 40,900 incidents reported in 2003. The increase is likely due to the greater use of carbon monoxide detectors, which alert people to the presence of the gas inside structures. | 341-2121, ext. 108