Firefighters are the ones who rush in when we need help, and they don’t just put out fires. They are first responders to medical emergencies, rescues, car crashes, and so much more.
This weekend, the International Association of Firefighters and New Mexico Professional Firefighters wanted to put local leaders and the media, including KRQE News 13’s Kim Vallez, in their shoes.
Mayor Tim Keller, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier and many other local leaders participated in order to get a tiny glimpse into the life of a firefighter.
First, participants faced a controlled fire inside an actual burn room – a luxury real firefighters don’t always get. Then it was time to suit up for real, each participant with a wrangler by their side every step of the way.
The temperature in the burn room reaches 1,000 degrees and the smoke thickens as wranglers instruct the group to get down on a knee as the heat grows more intense.
After waiting for 10 minutes, the group helped put out the fire before emerging back into the light.
With their adrenaline still pumping, the group talked about what they endured.
“What is your impression on what it would be like to go on one of these scenes?” a firefighter asked.
“Stressful, stressful. I guess trying to think on your feet knowing there’s other people you have to take care of, probably a checklist of what you have to do. We were just observers and it was hard to just breathe and think and stay and stand the heat much less having to do all these other things. So a lot of admiration for you guys,” KRQE News 13’s Kim Vallez said.
But the day was just beginning.
The group was then tasked with putting out a car fire – not easy when it’s your first time behind a hose pumping out 150 gallons a minute.
For their next challenge, the group ascended a ladder and conducted a room search. To make it more like a real fire, participants were blindfolded as they maneuvered around the room looking for victims.
Participants also got the chance to ride in Bernalillo County Fire’s new ladder truck, used in rescues.
Next, the group performed one of the most important things firefighters do, responding to medical calls.
Medical calls actually make up about 85 percent of the calls AFD answers each and everyday.
One of the other most common is dealing with car crashes – but getting patients out isn’t always so easy. Firefighters have to first make sure they’re safe.
It took a few tries, a few different tools and some critical thinking, but that’s exactly what these men and women do each and every day.
The Albuquerque Fire Department has the highest call volume per firefighter in the nation. Part of this exercise was to show local leaders what they, and many other departments across the state, are dealing with.