Several Dearborn Heights city officials spent a recent crisp morning getting a firsthand look at the lives of the city’s firefighters by becoming one of them.
The Fire Department hosted “Fire Ops 101,” special training for leaders who have not attended previous education sessions. The Oct. 8 event was held at the Downriver Emergency Training Complex on the Taylor campus of Wayne County Community College District.
Chief Dave Brogan and members of Dearborn Heights Professional Firefighters Union Local 1355 offered a hands-on glimpse of their many responsibilities and the training that goes with them.
Fire Marshal Max Mitts said it’s important that people know there’s more to being a firefighter than fighting fires.
“It’s physically and mentally demanding being a firefighter,” he said. “The mental side, half of us leave here broken. We pick up drowning babies, or deal with people who set themselves on fire, then we have to go home. We see this stuff day in and day out. It’s labor intensive, time critical work. We’re pushing ourselves to the limit and it takes a toll on us.”
The sprawling training center included overturned vehicles used during demonstrations of the Jaws of Life, a hydraulic rescue tool that is used to cut through cars and rip open vehicles’ doors to rescue occupants. There was also a staging area for handling fire hoses, a “smoke”-filled structure that simulated a house fire, and a building from which participants rappelled to the ground.
Following a lunch break, Lt. Lisa Martin, the department’s EMS coordinator, offered a CPR training course. In it, she showed proper lifesaving techniques to use on adults and babies, allowing participants to qualify for American Heart Association certification.
City Councilman Hassan Ahmad was among those who enjoyed getting a personal view of what fire personnel do on a daily basis.
“The most exciting part was the rope rappelling from the third floor (of the training building). It made me feel free and alive,” Ahmad said. “The most challenging was controlling the fire hose solo. That made me admire the firefighters’ bond that they have with each other as one family and one team, and how important it is to save lives.”
Brogan expressed his pride for the department and said there are several key characteristics that make the Dearborn Heights group one of the state’s best.
“I always stress being nice, compassion and empathy, and all the things that are important for being a firefighter,” Brogan said to participants during the classroom portion of the course. “The number one thing is that they treat our citizens like they would their own family, and I’m so proud of them every single day. We’re so proud to have the firefighters that we have.”