By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Smoke drifted out of the Norman Fire Department training tower Wednesday near Flood Avenue and Rock Creek Road as new recruits practiced a live burn scenario.
Ten recruits are in the training class. Graduation will be at 3 p.m. June 30 at the Norman Armed Forces Reserve Center.
The scenario Wednesday included what firefighters would do in the event of an apartment fire or a fire at the University of Oklahoma, chief of training Keith Nelson said.
“We take three engine companies and a truck company and come together (with the recruits),” Nelson said. “This is the first time our recruits really got to see what real life, real speed is like.”
Nelson said it helps recruits get an understanding of what their first real fire will be like.
“You can practice over here all day, but until everything comes together, it doesn’t really click. We make everything — rescue, ventilation, fire attack, exposure — come together,” he said.
The department’s new aerial trucks also were put into the mix during the live burn scenario.
“(Training has) been a lot harder than what I expected it to be,” new recruit John Paulus said. “You come to work and you’re not sure what’s gonna go on.”
Paulus, a Norman native, said he wanted to become a firefighter to help people and is looking forward to serving his community.
“I’m from this community, so I have a lot of pride. It’s great to help out people around here, great to help out family around here,” he said. “It’s definitely fulfilling.”
New recruit Eric Morris, of Yukon, also said he wanted to be a firefighter to help others and work with hard working, like-minded people.
“I’ve always wanted to get into firefighting; (it) just seems like a high-quality crew,” Morris said. “This is my first job as a firefighter. I spent a lot of years trying to get on to a few different departments. Norman’s always been my top choice, just because it’s a strong department.”
Another new recruit, Jared Branham, of Tecumseh, who has some previous training, said he came to Norman for the aggressive firefighting, better training, the possibilities of expansion and more education opportunities.
“Firefighters are just kind of outstanding citizens. I mean, they’re held at a high regard. The respect you carry, the ethics and morals they have and the discipline, and that’s what I like about the fire department,” Branham said.
Wednesday marked the last day for the recruits’ live burn training, where burn rooms in the training tower can get up to about 600 degrees, Deputy Fire Chief Jim Bailey said.
A look inside one of the burn rooms showed just how hot things can get if a firefighter were to go above a certain point. Go past that point and everything could catch on fire, Nelson said.
If firefighters stay below the thermal barrier, they’re pretty safe, but if they move up and it gets to the point where fingers of the flame roll over with the smoke, “that’s when we get melted helmets and melted people,” he said.
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