Fire dept. gives reporter intense training

July 23, 2008 4:59:55 PM PDT
What's it like to make a daring water rescue? ABC7's Kevin Roy and Intern Kevin got put to the test.

As the first members of the media invited to learn what it takes to survive the Chicago Fire Department's dive team training, they were given breathing masks fitted with flippers, then told to make a rescue -- swimming to a dummy and back, keeping the dummy's face out of the water of course.

"They need to be able to put all this equipment on and ready to go in less than four minutes," said Commander Ron Dorneker, Chicago Fire Scuba Teams.

"You said you were a swimmer in high school. It's a little different swimming with all this on," said Dorneker. "It is cumbersome."

It's even more difficult doing it again in the dark.

Next, they hop into a raft to pull a victim out of the water.

"Well, you did all right. We'll take you. Have a little more training and a medical exam first, see how all that comes out," said Dorneker.

The Chicago Fire Department has 140 divers around the city. And their training is much more advanced.

In another training session, trainers submerged a car underwater. A diver goes down and frees the victim. Roy and his intern watched this one.

Next, they suited up for fire training. The gear alone -- pants, coat, helmet, oxygen mask and more -- weighs more than a hundred pounds.

First, they climb up a ladder at the training academy, slowly making their way up a five-story building. Getting off is the tricky part.

Then, armed with infrared cameras, they go in, crawling on their hands and knees into a burning hallway.

"What we tell the candidates is, you won't be able to see your hand in front of your face," said Lt. Rick Flores, Chicago Fire Department.

After about five long minutes, Roy and his intern made their way back out.

"So yes, it was very hot in there, but not only that you couldn't' see anything," Roy said. "We had infrared cameras that allowed us to feel our way around and see where the heat was. But that feeling makes you feel claustrophobic. It's a little scary, and you can only touch your way around. I have a newfound and deep respect for what it takes to become a Chicago firefighter."

"That was really intense. You see it in the movies, can't see anything. You just get lost really quick, it's so intense," said Kevin Lewis, ABC7 intern.

It was intense enough that both Kevins left agreeing they'll stick to broadcast journalism.


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