The volunteer firefighters turned students literally feel the heat during live-fire training exercises.
Instructors say they teach techniques through hands-on learning, and for beginners, it’s a lesson that firefighting is more than just hooking up a hose.
“The old traditional saying was ‘put the wet stuff on the red stuff,’ there’s so much more than that – fire is a science, it’s physics,” says Brian Busse, a training specialist with the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office.
That office has around 120 part-time instructors, and six full-time ones like Busse across the state who teach smaller classes and departments year-round. But the annual fire school brings 1,200 firefighters into one weekend of intense training.
“We have honestly the largest class here at the Introduction [to Firefighting], we’re dealing with about 220-some students here this weekend, just in this class alone, so the impact that we get is absolutely awesome,” says Busse.
It’s not all fire-based either. Some of the 29 classes cover rescue methods and equipment use in scenarios a volunteer department could respond to in rural or urban settings.
“When we think about it realistically – what’s the difference between a tractor that’s mowing the lawn in the city versus a tractor that’s mowing the lawn in the country? Sometimes only the paint,” says instructor Earl Rudolph, who worked with firefighters on some ag-based situations like tractor rollovers and auger accidents.
Rudolph says they push safety during this practice so these volunteers don’t become victims themselves.
“We kind of exemplify a lot of good safety features down here so that we lessen the chance that somebody will have a problem during an actual incident,” he says.
“We stress safety because if we look at firefighter deaths from twenty years ago, the same things are killing firefighters today that killed them twenty years ago,” says Busse.
Busse says the popular Introduction to Firefighting class isn’t just for rookies. Some departments require it as a first fire school class, but he says even those seasoned veterans can improve on how they respond to a call by going back to the basics.