Reporter’s Notebook: A day in the life of a Columbus firefighter

Fire Ops 101 exposes participants to the smoke, adrenaline rush, and physical stress firefighters and emergency medical personnel routinely face.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — I was invited to participate in the Fire Ops 101 by the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters as a way to teach lawmakers and policy decision-makers what a day in the life of a firefighter is like and the needs departments are facing.

When I agreed to attend, I did not realize they would literally put me in the fire. It was a full day of hands-on learning about what firefighters may encounter any given day.

We started the day with leaders fron the Ohio Fire Chief’s Association (OAPFF) and the State Fire Marshal’s office explaining some of the issues facing departments: the need for updated equipment, mental health treatment for PTSD and training to best respond to any emergency.

Next, it was time to gear up! They outfitted about 20 of us with full turnout gear. We then walked to another building on the Ohio Fire Academy campus to learn about first aid and EMT training. 

I was tired just walking in the full gear. 

They explained how tools like electric cots can save on injuries, but are an expensive investment.

Firefighters and EMTs respond to many car accidents. Instructors from the State Fire Academy taught us how to use the extrication tools, including the jaws of life, to rip a car open to rescue people inside. I had no idea how heavy the tools were. It was amazing watching the tools spread apart steel so quickly. It took me a minute to learn how to handle the equipment, until they made a competition out of it!

Next, we went through the search-and-rescue building. The wranglers put black-out shields over the helmets so we could not see. We also had to put on the self-contained breathing apparatus. I have to admit, I have never been able to scuba dive because I get panicked when I can’t breath on my own. Breathing through the mask made me very nervous. We geared up and crawled through the building, trying to find any victims inside. Without being able to see, I was left with just using my hands to feel and my partner’s help. We ended up leaving one victim inside, and rescued one.

Instructors taught us about the different types of trucks. We got a chance to climb up the ladder to the top of a building. We also were able ride in a bucket and got a bird’s eye view of the campus.

The last part of the day put us all to the test. We went into the burn building as groups of four and got a chance to fight fire. We geared up again and each took turns leading with the hose and extinguishing the flames. It was quite the experience to crawl in through the heat of the building and being within feet of the flames. As hot as it was, it was amazing how the equipment and gear protected us.

At the end of the day I was thankful to take off all the equipment and leave firefighting to the professionals. I’ll keep my day job, but I have a newfound respect for our firefighters.

Thursday on 10TV News at 6PM: Fire chiefs across central Ohio say they are desperate to keep up with staffing as the population grows. A look at the staffing shortages and what’s being done to recruit the next generation of firefighters.