Although these firefighters have already experienced significant training in fire rooms at the academy, they got a chance to wander into a building in Bayonne filled with smoke and many of the confusing conditions they can expect to encounter in a real fire.
For the exercise on Avenue C near 17th Street, the department installed smoke-making equipment that filled a building due to be renovated by the Bayonne Housing Authority. The department also nailed doors shut and created a maze through which the trainees would wander.
The city is allowing the firefighters to fill it with smoke and to knock holes in the walls for a realistic practice of what each might face during a real fire.
Deputy Chief Joe Hurley said the recruits were brought back to Bayonne for a couple of days of training to get them accustomed to the equipment and landscape in the city they will be serving.
The training exercise included a rescue of three mannequins - two adults and one baby - who were located inside the building. The recruits were required to make their way through the smoke and other obstacles and bring them out.
Instructors from Middletown accompanied the recruits, one instructor for each potential firefighter, evaluating them and their reactions in the near-life-like scenario, Hurley said.
The department also threw in a surprise. One of the live firefighters would later call in a mayday, and a special team of recruits would have to rush into the building, find that firefighter, and get him out.
This team is called the Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) and it is a group of specially trained firefighters that stand by at a fire scene to immediately answer a call for help from a brother or sister firefighter who may be trapped within building or other structure.
A Rapid Intervention Team operates at a fire scene with only one purpose - to save someone who is trapped. The RIT unit usually parks near to operation and remains in contact with the incident commander.
Lt. Don Derotesis said the recruits are using what is called a Denver Drill, which involves removing a firefighter through a window. This drill was developed after the attempted rescue of a firefighter in the 1980.
Vincent Parlevechio, instructor from the academy, said the firefighter could have been rescued, but they couldn't get him out of the window.
"About 100 firefighters die each year while trying to save someone," Hurley said.
As the firefighters inside found the trapped man, outside firefighters set up a ladder above a window, and strung a rope and pulley just above the window so that the firefighter could be hoisted out with his 60 pounds of gear. He was to be lowered to the ground where other firefighters and emergency medical technicians could care for the injured firefighter.
In this instance, the new recruits did well. They found, rescued and lowered the injured firefighter to the ground in 4 minutes and 30 seconds.
For the exercise, Engine Company No. 4 from the 16th Street firehouse, Engine No. 1 and Rescue No. 1 from the Military Ocean Terminal firehouse participated.
Sworn in Friday
The 15 fire fighters were sworn in at ceremony held in City Hall on April 15. They are the first new firefighters hired by the department since 1999 and will fill the ranks of the Department's Table of Organization that were depleted by retirements and injuries over the years.
Firefighters in Bayonne start about $34,000 a year. The hiring, along with related expenses, will cost the city about $650,000 for the first year. Some of this will fall under a federal Safe Cities grant.