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Paul's Fire Brigade Recruit Training
16 September 2005 - 4 January 2006

On the 16 September 2005 I signed up for sixteen weeks of training with the New South Wales Fire Brigade. Eighteen guys and two girls started training that day, by the following Monday two guys had pulled out for whatever reason. This webpage is a weekly training diary from my time learning to be a firefighter with the NSWFB.

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The First Day

My first day in the New South Wales Fire Brigades (NSWFB) was pretty easy. After meeting in the meals area we were met by a smiling Station Officer and taken up to a lecture room. There were 20 of us, all new recruits, strangers for today, classmates from tomorrow.

First thing we were given boxes and boxes of uniforms to check and try on. We tried on our uniforms and turn-out gear, checked all the items on the list and made lists of things we were missing.

Following the uniform fitting We were given a few introductory lectures on what to expect out of the next 16 weeks of training and what would be expected of us. There was the standard visit by the union representative we were treated to a free bbq.

Week one - Lectures and Hose Drills

The first week we had a lot of lectures that had to be covered. Things like correct wearing of uniforms and personal protective equipment (PPE). OH+S and equal opportunity. The lectures were interspersed with trips into the yard and being introduced to the equipment on the Fire Appliances. We learnt to ship a standpipe, bowl a hose and the correct way to roll the hose up again.

We also were introduced to Physical Training (PT). Twice a week a physical trainer came to the college and took all the recruits for PT. We were introduced to the abdominal hover, stair sprints and other new ways of exercising.

Week Two - Lectures, Yard Drills and Turning Out.

The second week was more of the same. More was expected of us now that we had been here for a while, I suppose we were eased in for the first week and now were being shown our place. We had more lectures but now it was mixed in with more interesting yard drills and turnout drills. We were on edge in the meals area every time we heard the intercom come on, waiting for the call "Class 6 turn out for structural fire". We would race out to the turnout shed and put on all our firefighting gear and line up out front to be inspected by our instructor. "Where are your gloves, or "Do up that jacket". We laughed about it, and by the end of the week just about had it sorted out. The week went really quickly and before we new it, it was week three and a whole new experience.

This week was made better by the efforts of our Instructor who kept our classroom time down to a minimum and gave us more time 'in the yard' doing drills.

Week Three - Breathing Apparatus.

The third week we went to a separate section of the training college, the breathing apparatus or BA section. We started by learning the specs and identifying the different parts of the breathing gear and then went into practising donning and doffing (putting it on and off) and wearing it. We also covered search techniques especially in a smoke filled environment focusing on limited visibility and hazards caused by fire (like the chance of falling through burnt floors). To get us used to searching for casualties in this environment we took turns searching through prepared rooms looking for sandbag bodies while wearing sandblasted facemasks (dulled masks that were made it almost impossible to see). We could hardly see a thing and had to feel our way around the rooms looking for the sandbags and dragging them out the exit.
The final exercise was similar but the rooms were filled with non-toxic smoke and we did our search techniques with full BA and clear masks. This really gave us the feeling of fireground search and confirmed all that we had been taught through the week.

Hazardous Materials

Week four was all about dealing with hazardous materials. It involved a lot of theory and quite a few PowerPoint presentations. We went for a walk in the fully encapsulated, chemical resistant, gas proof suits which was interesting. As the suits are airtight we wear BA under them, as we breath the suit starts to blow up with exhaled air. It is a weird feeling and makes the suits very warm to wear.
The highlight of this week was the senior class graduating. It took up half a day on the Thursday and everyone at the college stopped and watched the graduation parade and firefighting demonstration put on by the senior class. This is one impressive demonstration with explosions and fireballs all over the place.

Week five - Rescue and MVA

This was a top week and one we had all been looking forward to a great deal. Our class of eighteen was split into two sections. One section went to drive school to learn to drive the Fire Appliances. The other half (myself included) learnt vertical rescue and motor vehicle accident (MVA) rescue techniques.
We started the week learning vertical rescue techniques and by Tuesday were doing top belay and top belay pickups. Being lowered from the roof of the five story training tower down the outside of the building and picking up a casualty from the third story balcony along the way. It was a real challenge to overcome the fear of heights but a real sense of achievement once the descent was completed. We went on to self rescue techniques (which is basically rappelling down the building) and ladder rescue techniques.
The second half of this week was learning motor vehicle accident (MVA) rescue techniques. We were shown how to use some of the best big boys toys ever. Big hydraulic cutters and crushers and rams and pumps and generators. Of course we had to cut up a car to practice and this we did with gusto. As an added bonus we rolled an old car onto its side (amazing what half a dozen enthusiastic firefighters can do) to practice stabilising techniques. Over all a big thumbs up for this week.

Week Six - Motor School

This week was all about learning to drive the Fire Appliances and it was a week we had been looking forward to. We were introduced to the instructorsí first thing Monday morning before spending a few hours going over the expectations for the week and covering the theory we would be examined on that Thursday. By lunch-time we had covered all that needed to be covered in the classroom and were ready to drive. We were split up into groups and allocated an instructor. By five past lunch we were on the road.
I was paired up with Joh, 'the apprentice', as we both already had our truck licences (courtesy of the Army for me) and our Drive Instructor took us for familiarisation through the city. Familiarisation is us driving the instructor around the city while he gives directions like, left here, slow down here, stick to the right side of the lane, stop here, and other similar instructions.
It was great fun taking turns driving around the city and through the suburbs. When we weren't driving we were in the back of the Appliance practising our station numbers or going over the theory for the exam later in the week.
On the Thursday those without licences did their driving test and we all had our theory exam, of course no-one had any problems and by lunchtime we were all qualified to drive. This was an excellent week and one we will remember.

Week Seven - Wildfire Lectures and Our First fire

Week Seven started out fairly slowly. The next class (Class 7/05) had started the week before and we were no longer the junior class. We helped the new guys with station duties and such and taught them some of the tricks to help them through the next few weeks; like junior class makes coffee for everyone at the college (they didnít believe us on that one, I wonder why?). All in all it was good not to be the junior class anymore.

Work wise there was a lot of theory to cover this week. We had three topics to cover which meant three exams at the end of the week. We studied hard for our theory exams and continued with yard drills and waited for Friday when we were going on a filed trip.

Friday came and we had completed all our lessons and finished our exams. The field trip was assisting at a controlled burn in Castle Hill. A section of bush close to homes was being burned to reduce the likelihood of a fire getting out of control over the coming summer. We arrived and there were about seven or eight other Fire crews from stations around Sydney. We were briefed and the college crew were given a section in the centre to patrol. Our job was to ensure the burn didn't get out of control or cross control lines. We carried our gear down to our area and set up. We had Petrol pumps drawing water from a creek and ran hose north and south along the burn line. Then along came the Bush Fire Officer and lit up. We had a great time; we patrolled up and down, squirted some water, helped the fire burn in some areas and put fire out in others. We all worked up a mammoth sweat and when the day ended and we headed back to the college everyone agreed that it was a very worthwhile activity.

Pump Week...

This week we were back at motor school only this time it was to learn how to operate pumps. Our core business is being able to get wet stuff on the hot stuff and to do that we had to learn to operate the pumps safely and effectively (I sound like an add....)
After the first few hours covering the theory we were out in the yard and getting into it.
Day two and three were both days out, Tuesday to Manly Dam and Wednesday to Revesby Beach to practice operating the pumps, drafting water and relay pumping (pumping water from one pumper into another to get water onto a fire a long way from the source). By the time we had our practical test on Thursday we were confident with our abilities and we all went about operating the pumps without any problems.

The end of this week also marked our half way mark in our recruit training at the college so we had to go out and celebrate. Yes guys, Bondi is a good place to go for a drink. But all those lawnmowers.......
See you next week.

This brings me to the half way point in my training.
To see what happens in the following weeks have a look at the next page where I continue my weekly reports.

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If you want to look at any more pictures from NSW Fire Brigade recruit Training click here.

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