Lithgow firefighters use breathing apparatus unit in training session

Lithgow firefighters got their chance to show off their skills at a training night, on Tuesday, June 12. 

On hand to give a talk about breathing apparatus was senior firefighter Gary Springer. 

As an instructor in the breathing apparatus unit for many years, he travels NSW to give a refresher drills to fire stations around the state. 

Before going into the simulator, the firefighters went through some theory, learning more about the breathing apparatus that they use and doing routine checks of the equipment. 

Mr Springer said using the breathing refresher drill apparatus was a good opportunity for the crews to brush up on their skills. 

From the outside the unit looks just like a regular semi trailer painted red with the slogan “It only takes seconds to prevent fire in your home,” on the side. Fold out stairs on the side of the truck work as entry to a mock granny flat. 

It was then time for the practical element where in pairs, firefighters have to enter the granny flat, which was filled with smoke, and navigated around domestic furniture, lounges and beds with zero visibility to locate the casualties and bring them out safely. 

Without smoke versus a few small puffs of smoke, now just imagine the whole room covered in smoke and not being able to see.

Without smoke versus a few small puffs of smoke, now just imagine the whole room covered in smoke and not being able to see.

Mr Springer said they tried to bring the mobile simulator once a year because it was like bringing a fire to the recruits. 

“We don’t make it easy for them, so we don’t put the dummies right in front of them because otherwise they would be in and out and that just isn’t realistic,” he said. 

“Obviously in an actual fire the smoke would be thick and black but we can’t use that, so we do this at night, in pitch black and thick stage smoke.” 

Searching techniques are key for this kind of training exercise because if not done correctly the fire fighters could miss crucial elements, Mr Springer said. 

“It’s human nature to want to stay together in that kind of situation,” he said. 

“In the dark a lot of people instinctively act a bit drunk and just hang onto the wall and don’t really move around too much, but that causes problems.” 

At the end of their session, Mr Springer gave them tips and notes about what they did well and what they could improve on. 

The unit was not just designed as a training truck but could also be used in an emergency such as a truck crash or chemical spill. 

"It is also a response unit for any major incident such as a truck accident,” he said.

"As well as six fully encapsulated suits, 12 breathing apparatus sets and 24 spare BA cylinders, it is well equipped with Hazmat equipment and decontamination showers.”