Academy Blog; Battalion 50; Wk8; Monday; Timed Progressive Hoselays, S-130

Written by Cadet Donia,

 OCFRA, Battalion 50, Alpha Company, Squad 1, s5

 Monday October 8, 2018

 The day started at 0630 for Battalion 50 as the cadets arrived to the academy grounds. We unloaded our brush PPE's and Uniforms from our personal vehicles and staged our brush gear in front of the apparatus bay.  From there, we went to the locker rooms and put away our uniforms, personal gear and lunches.  We immediately returned to staging to wait for further instruction from Battalion Officer Johns regarding the set up for the morning’s progressive hoselays. Battalion Officer Johns informed us we would be at the Duck Pond, practicing progressive hose lays for time. At 0730, we all went to the hose rack to prepare our brush packs which contain 2 sticks of inch and a half hose. Each stick is 100 feet length. We worked to build hose packs, set up gated wyed supply lines, organized fittings and retrieved nozzles from the bunker.

 Progressive Hose Lays drills began at 0800.  Each team practiced the lays for time.  Everyone in the Battalion was complete in approximately one hour.  Teams consisted of 2 cadets paired by name alphabetically.  They had to perform all steps to advance 500’ of the single jacket 1 ½” hose and complete the tasks within 8 minutes. We began station breakdown once everyone was finished. The hose was washed and brushed with a soft bristled push broom. To help with drying, we placed the sections of hose in a snaking pattern, which is turning the hose on its side to allow maximum dry time.  

 We were dismissed to hygiene, by Battalion Officer Johns, to get cleaned up from the Duck Pond.  We lined up in the breezeway in reverse seat order to get ready to go into the classroom. We walked into our classroom and waited at attention behind our chairs for further instruction from Captain Twitchell and Engineer Tarkany.

 At 1000 hours we began studying Wildland Fire Fighter Training S-130.  We learned about the different components of the fire and wildland firefighter terms. Captain Twitchell went over fire fighter preparedness including the weight limits of wildland packs and personal gear, and mandatory items such as PPE's, hard hat, and eye protection.  He reviewed diet and exercise for fire fighters, and taught the effects of fatigue and dehydration. Next he taught about the Incident Command System and how it’s used in wildland firefighting.

 Engineer Tarkany discussed resource types for crews and equipment and their specific responsibilities on a fire incident. Hand crews, engine crews, and helitack crews were all researched. She went over the risk management process, fire orders and watch out situations, called the 10s and 18s.  We used our IRPG to reference topics she was discussing.

 After a one hour lunch, we met back in the classroom and continued our lessons on Wildland Fire Fighter Training S-130. Captain Twitchell and Engineer Tarkany team taught us about LCES, fire shelters, equipment use and inspections, suppression techniques, potential hazards and the human factors that play a role on the fire line, . We studied the 30 Mile Fire, where firefighter deaths could have been prevented had proper LCES and communication in place.

  Captain Crudo administered the S-130 exam at approximately 1600 hours.  An unstructured release followed, meaning as cadets finished the exam and after colors were lowered, cadets were free to informally dismiss.


Academy Blog; Battalion 50; Wk7; Wed; Wildland: Progressive Hoselays, Hand Tools, Fire Shelters

Written by Cadet Tom,

OCRFA, Battalion 50, Charlie Company, Squad 5, s4

On October 3, 2018, OCRFA Battalion 50 began our day arriving on academy grounds at 0630 hours. Cadets arrived in their PT gear and began staging their wildland gear south of the apparatus bay. This was the first of two weeks focused primarily on wildland firefighting. By 0700 hours, PT began with an eight station workout. With this being our seventh week into the academy, all of the cadets are in top physical  condition.

After PT, cadets prepared for the rest of the day by setting up the academy grounds for the (four rotation) drills of the day. The four rotations consisted of learning about the wildland tools used and how to maintain them, along with two rotations of progressive hose lays and fire shelter introduction. Each rotation lasted approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes in length.

I’m currently assigned to “Charlie" company and we started our rotation with Captain Gabriel learning about fire shelters. During this rotation, cadets learned how to deploy and use their fire shelters during a wildland fire incident. The cadets were challenged with getting into their fire shelters while being timed. This was a very valuable station for the cadets.

Our next rotation was learning about the basic tools used during a wildland fire. We learned about the pulaski, shovel (combination tool) and the McLeod. Along with learning how the tools were used we were taught how to properly maintain and sharpen the tools. After the orientation of the tools, we were given the opportunity to put our knowledge to the test. Each cadet picked a different tool and we learned how to properly cut a fire line. This rotation brought us to lunch time at 1200 hours.

The third station began at 1300 hours in the duck pond with Captain Herrick. During this rotation  we walked through each step of the progressive hose lay (by the numbers). We were instructed on how to properly roll a hose pack, use a nozzle (straight stream to fog), how to properly clamp a hose, and how to anchor in before advancing on the fire. This was a very informative station and I personally learned a lot of new skills.

The fourth station was again doing progressive hose lays, but this time each cadet was challenged with performing a progressive hose lay with a partner. This was a great learning experience having to work with a teammate to complete the task. This station really showed the importance of communication and team work. The instructors also challenged the cadets by timing the hose lay from start to finish. This added some pressure but quickly turned into a friendly competition within each company on who could complete the hose lay the fastest.

The end of the rotations finished at approximately 1700 hours and station breakdown began. Cadets from each company were assigned to different tasks to help clean up. By 1730 hours the battalion was dismissed for the day. This was another successful and challenging day at the Oxnard fire academy.

Academy Blog; Battalion 50; Wk6; Thursday; Hose and Ladder Finals Completion

Written by: Cadet Morales

 OCRFA, Battalion 50, Delta Company, Squad 7, s3

 Drill Date: September 27, 2018 

It’s a cold Thursday morning and everyone is anxious for the last day of testing on laying Hose and throwing Ladders. As everyone starts to filter into the parking lot, we unload our gear, double check our equipment and make our way onto academy grounds. It’s 0630 as we make our way down our path, making a 90 degree at every turn, and in the back of our minds all we can think about is the busy day ahead. As some cadets break off from the group to head to bunker row and retrieve their gear, the rest head to the day room to leave their lunch and drop off their gear in the locker room. Before we head out, we ensure we have plenty of water and ice and make our way to room 104 to drop off our keys in the key storage cabinet.

After the classroom, we make our way to bunker row to retrieve our Personal Protective Equipment and carry it to our staging area in front of the apparatus bay. As we arrive at staging we find our landmark and start setting up our gear by company and seat number. Alpha and Bravo are on the right and Charlie and Delta Dawgs are on the left. Our gear is setup in a meticulous order starting with our bunker pants/boots on our left, our brush jacket, brush pants and turnout coat to the side and the helmet (name facing forward) on top. On the right side, our Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus is setup with straps neatly tucked away, followed by our water containers in the front (names facing forward).

We do our morning check of our PPE, which consists of examining our PPE for any signs of wear or tear and ensure our SCBA ensemble is functioning properly. As we quickly try to deactivate the Personal Alert Safety System on our SCBA from going off, we hear “COLORS!” off in the distance. That’s our cue to drop whatever we’re doing and stand at attention facing the flags as a sign of respect. It’s roughly 0700 and the Company Officers line up to head to Room 118 for a morning briefing with Captain Crudo.

It’s around 0730 and the Company Officers are returning from their morning briefing and we split up into our Companies to listen to our morning assignments. Before we go anywhere, we quickly don our turnout pants and brush jacket, along with our helmet and we grab our water containers before we head to do our assignment. Our Company Officer Cadet Alexander leads the way as we head to Bleve with Charlie Company to help setup the stations for the day.

Our first assignment consisted of establishing a 4 inch supply line from the fire hydrant on Durely Ave. to Engine 40 parked on Bleve Ave. This was accomplished by paying out enough hose to reach the engine, and at the same time we ensured the hose beds were dressed appropriately. Our second task was to ensure each cross lay was set up correctly to perform Extending a Burst line and Securing a Hose to a Ground Ladder.

Its 0900 and Delta Company started the day off at Bleve, the skill being tested was Operating a Charged Attack Hose Line from a Ground Ladder being led by Retired LAFD Captain Jacalone. The essential steps to this skill are advancing an uncharged hoseline, positioning oneself correctly to climb the 24’ extension ladder and locking in with the correct foot to start working off the ladder. Many cadets had trouble with this skill the day prior and today was the last day to re-test. The correct approach to securing the uncharged hose to the ladder was achieved by tying a larks foot, a round turn and two half hitches and finished off by securing the remainder of the webbing to the rail.

It’s 0945 and all of Delta is down the road testing on Replacing a Burst Section of Hose by led by LAFD Captain Miranda. This skill simulates what would happen if a section of hose burst during operations. The key steps to this drill included placing a hose clamp at least 5 feet away from the coupling of the damaged hose, bleeding the line, and removing the damaged section. The next step is to replace the section with a 100 foot section of hose and dress the kinks before releasing the clamp and advancing the line.

By around 1030, most of Delta Company has finished with testing for the first part of the day so Company Officer Alexander splits up the Company and sends us to different drills. Our main goal is to load hose while other Cadets wait to be tested, this way the rotations will go by quicker. We use this time to move our gear staged in front of the apparatus bay to the inside of the apparatus bay to clear the area outside for testing purposes. While spots are waiting to be filled for the next Cadets testing outside, some Cadets from Delta stay inside the app bay to get some extra practice tying knots. By 1150 we are called back to staging, doff our gear and are released for Lunch. Lunch took place from 1200 – 1245, allowing our Company enough time to return and be ready for our next drill rotation at 1300.

It’s 1300 and Delta Company is lined up in front of the app bay waiting to be testing on our next skill. The skill taking place in front of the app bay is also taking place in front of the duck pond area and our Company is split in half to make progress. At this station our Company is assigned to perform a Forward Hoselay led by LAFD Captain Jackson. This skill requires two Cadets to perform the skill although only one is being graded. The Cadet being tested is playing the role of the Hydrant Firefighter, while the Cadet helping is playing the role of the Engineer.

The first step Forward Hoselay requires the Cadet to acquire a hydrant wrench before advancing a supply line from the apparatus to the fire hydrant. The Cadet secures the line around the hydrant, orders the Engine to “TAKE OFF”, waits until they hear the airbrakes, dresses the hose, opens the outlet, flushes the hydrant and checks for a gasket before connecting the supply line to the proper discharge. The hydrant member acknowledges the call for water and slowly opens up the hydrant, removes the kinks as they work their way to the Engineer and acknowledges the call to shut down the water.

The Engineer in this skill is responsible for breaking the coupling in the work area, discarding one section of hose and shouldering the other to the engineer’s panel and connecting. Once this task is complete the Engineer calls for water/ and calls for shut down. At around 1400 everyone from Delta was done with the Forward Hoselay and was starting to head back to staging to start assembling for our last final of the day, Ladders.

At 1500 the first two Cadets from Delta Company were on their way to Ladderland and staged in the pull-up bar area, while the last Cadets from the previous group finished their testing. The rest of Delta Company helped finish loading hose while the other Companies did their share in cleaning up. For testing purposes, only two cadets were testing at a time and each cadet rotated from the 14’ to the 24’ ladder.

The testing sequence included a 1 person 14’ ladder flat/beam raise, 1 person 24’ ladder beam raise, and 2 person 24’ ladder flat/beam raise. The 2 person throws occurred 4 times total, with each Cadet rotating from tip to base position for both flat and beam raise. As the last few members of Delta and the other members from Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie finished testing, the rest of the Battalion was busy cleaning up and breaking down stations. Some Cadets were busy wiping down the Engines, others were cleaning the app bay, and a few members took the opportunity to thoroughly wash Captain Crudo’s truck.

At approximately 1700, the Battalion Officer gathered everyone together for a brief moment to evaluate how the day went and Captain Crudo took the opportunity to congratulate us on our work and to briefly mention her plans for the following week. One month long of ladders was finally over but the hard work wasn’t over just yet, Wildland was coming Monday.

Academy Blog; Battalion 50; Wk6; Hose Finals, Ladder Finals Prep, Battalion Project-Utility Conversion

Written by Cadet Carbajal

OCRFA, Battalion 50, Charlie Company, Squad 5, s3

Wednesday September 26, 2018

The day started at 0630 for Battalion 50 as cadets arrived on academy grounds to stage gear in front of the apparatus bay. At 0645, two cadets yelled “colors” and everyone stopped silently to stand at attention as the United States and California flags were being raised. We were all patiently waiting at staging for our officers to come back from their meeting and brief us on what we had to set up for the day.

This day was going to be different because we were being tested on the hose lays that we had been practicing all month. These included: extending an attack line, replacing a burst hose line, setting up a ground monitor, setting up and tying down a hose line to a ladder, and finally throwing ladders. To prepare, we began setting up various stations, with one group (or company) assigned to a station. The company I’m a part of, Charlie, set up the portable monitor station.

At 0740 we came together as one battalion at staging to don our PPE/SCBA. We attempted to do this as quickly as possible, per usual, with a primary goal of under two minutes. When we were done, Captain Crudo quickly briefed us on what would be happening and how things needed to be done. We were then ready to hit our first stations.Charlie company was split into squads (5 and 6) at two different test stations—one consisting of extending an attack line with Engineer Rivera, from Los Angeles City Fire Department, and the other of replacing a burst hose line with Firefighter Balandran, also from Los Angeles City Fire Department. The objective of the first station was to complete a series of tasks that are performed as follows: pull 100 feet of hose from the engine, use a hose clamp to stop the flow of water, then add an additional 50 feet to extend the line. The objective of the second station was to perform the appropriate actions in response to a simulated hose burst, which meant replacing it with an additional 100 feet of hose and using a hose clamp to stop the flow of water.

1030 came around quickly and Charlie Company had just finished our first two stations. We ran up to Bleve Ave for our next two stations.  Portable ground monitor was run by Captain Jackson from Los Angeles City Fire Department and operating a charged hose line from a ladder was proctored by Captain Jacalone, retired Los Angeles City Fire Department. At portable monitor, three people participated.

The firefighter pulled 4 inch supply line, the captain retrieved the monitor, spanners, striking tool and a double male fitting, and the engineer set up for water. At the hose and ladder station with Captain Jacalone we deployed 150 ft. of hose, set two coupling at the base of the ladder, climbed up the ladder with the nozzle draped behind our back, locked into the ladder at an appropriate height, tied the correct knot to secure the hose, called for water and operated the charged line from the ladder. We were at this station until approximately 1200.

We all met at staging at 1205 and were released to lunch by our battalion officer Johns. We were given instruction to meet back in the breezeway at 1250 and be ready to go to our next station at 1300.

 Charlie Company’s next station was restoring and repurposing a Ford F250 back to life, led by retired Ventura County Fire Department Captain Kromka. We sanded the truck, re-stained the wood rack, and painted anything that needed it. The truck will be converted to a Type VI pumper for future battalions to use. This was a great experience. We all had a great time bringing the truck back to life.

Charlie’s last station started at 1440. It was time to throw ladders at the infamous Ladder Land ran by Engineer Barnes and Firefighter Thompson, both from Oxnard Fire Department. While there, we had to practice our single 14 ft., single 24 ft. and two-person 24 ft. throws. We also needed to ensure we had all of our ladder commands and techniques dialed in for tomorrow’s ladder test. This went on for more than hour until we stopped at 1600.

At 1600 it was time for the TOC (the Tournament of Champions). The Tournament of Champions is an academy known event, consisting of eight teams with two teams representing each company. The objective of the TOC is to see who can put up their ladder the most efficiently, within the least amount of time, without violating safety guidelines. Everyone in the tournament worked furiously, but in the end there could only be one winner. This semester, the victors of the TOC were Cadet Canales and Cadet Fricke from the Delta Company.

1700 came around and we all quickly cleaned up and broke down the drills and stations. We wiped down all the engines and waited at staging to be released. Two cadets broke away from the battalion to do colors. Finally, we had a quick summary of how the day went and were dismissed by battalion officer Johns, calling it a day.

 “ Make each day your masterpiece “ – John Wooden

Academy Blog; Battalion 50; Wk6; Tues; Hose Finals Prep, Ladders, Bldg Construction


Written by Cadet Chavez; Bravo Company, Squad 3, s3

On Tuesday, around 0415 on 101 Freeway in Camarillo, a semi-truck overturned resulting in freeway closure. This affected the arrival time of some of the cadets driving in from the east. Cadets arriving at 0630 grabbed their PPE’s and set them at staging in proper formation.  WOD (workout of the day) began at 0700. 

Soon after finishing we met back at staging and donned our structure coat/pant and PPE’s for time.  We were reminded to don our clothes for time whenever possible to prepare testing in November.  “3….2...1..GO”, our battalion leader said.  Each cadet frantically taking their athletic shoes off and remembering the proper sequence of which article of clothing to put on next, hood, pants, coat… buttons…. middle button.  Soon after our quick drill, we doffed our gear and were briefed by our company officers of our drill set up assignments.

Today, Bravo Company has Rehab (water refill), cones, App bay floors. Charlie was responsible for supply hose on all engines and to bed all the crosslays. Delta was to set up the ladders in Ladderland and Alpha had Area 4 supply/crosslay lines. We were briefed on the day's drills, then sent to hygiene and to grab a quick snack. Today would be the last review day before our finals in several drills including Extend/Replace Burst Lines and Hydrant Forward Hose lay along with Ladder Placements, which we would be tested on Thursday,  and Buildling Construction for our live burning training.

At 0900 Bravo Company was up first in the Extend and Replace Burst Lines. In replacing  a line the cadet was to pull 100 feet of pre-connect hose, ensure 50 feet was flaked at the objective, call for water, bleed the air through nozzle and advance the line. The second stick of hose or 50 foot hose would then “burst” the cadet is to run back to the engine grab a hose clamp and pull an additional 100 feet of hose to the nozzle. An extra stick of hose is pulled to avoid running in the middle of making the repair.  The cadet clamps off the hose, replaces the burst line, releases the clamp, charges and advances the line. The Extending Lines drill was similar, instead of pulling 100 feet of hose you shoulder loaded 50 feet, clamped at the nozzle, removed it to add the additional hose, the recouple the nozzle and advance the line.

At 1040 Bravo Company moved to a Forward Lay.  We reviewed the hydrant member's task of laying a line.  This consisted of retrieving a hydrant wrench and a 3 inch supply line, pulling the hose and wrapping around a hydrant then securing the hose by stepping on it and telling the engineer to “Take off!”.  Once  two couplings hit the ground or the air brakes are heard the hose was attached to the hydrant. The hydrant was flushed to remove any possible debris in the inlet, then the hose was attached, coupling tightened and hose was dressed as the cadet waited for the call for “Water!” before opening the hydrant.

Lunch was at noon.  At 1245, Bravo met in the breezeway, quickly moved to staging to don our structure clothing and SCBA and headed to Ladderland early to be prepared to throw ladders. Although each cadet was full of lunch we were able to confidently throw our ladders with precision and excellence.

At 1440, we moved to the apparatus bay to continue the construction the out buildings we will be burning during our live fire drills at a later date. At 1600 we began station breakdown, then met in the academy classroom 104 for a 1640 briefing.  We were released at 1700 to go home and rest up for our first skills final.            

Academy Blog; Battalion 50; Wk6; Monday; Hose, Ladders, SCBA

Written by Cadet Soto

OCRFA, Battalion 50, Alpha Company, Squad 1, s3

Drill date 9/24/18

Battalion 50’s day started at 0630 with everyone arriving and staging our gear accordingly.  We made a change today to our normal PT by adjusting the time to 30 minutes so that we can start a daily donning of our ppe (personal protective equipment) for time, we will be tested in November and the goal is to have everyone completely dressed and on air in under 2 minutes.  After the morning workout and donning of ppe for time we began setting up the stations for the day which were Ladderland, Rehab stations, Bleve, Hose line extension/replacing burst line and SCBA/right handed search.

At 0900 Alpha Company started their day at the Bleve station which consisted of two sections, first Squad one was on the portable monitor.  This drill takes 4 people to operate, the captain grabs the portable monitor and runs it 100’ away to the objective, firefighter 1 pulls 100’ of 4” hose out to the portable monitor and connects it, firefighter 2 pulls out a 50’ section of 2 ½” hose, disconnects it and takes it to the engineer where he hands off the male coupling and takes the female end to the gated wye to connect.  The engineer connects the 2 ½” hose and runs around the engine to disconnect the 4” and reconnect it to the engine’s pump.  The firefighter and captain then call for water and manipulate the portable monitor up, down, left and right.  The other drill consisted of a captain and firefighter pulling and placing 150’ of hose to the base of a ladder, then the firefighter would advance the nozzle up the ladder, rest it on a rung and lock into the ladder by wrapping their leg through the rungs and around the beam.  Then they tied the hose down to ladder and called for water and opened the bale to flow water 20’ in the air onto their objective.

 At 1040 we moved on to extending hose and replacing a burst hose lines.  Again, we split into two groups and ran drills simultaneously.  A member from Squad 1 would grab the nozzle and loop of hose from bed 1, advance it 50’, run back to grab a hose clamp, shoulder load an additional 50’ of hose, set the hose clamp 5’ away from the nozzle, bleed the hose, disconnect the nozzle, extend the hose with that 50 foot section of hose, attach the nozzle to that before removing the clamp and advancing the remaining hose.  A member from Squad 2 would grab the nozzle and loop from bed 3, run it out, but would then run back to grab a clamp and pull another 100 feet of hose to connect to their existing hose lay before advancing.

 At 1200 we were dismissed for lunch and returned at 1300 to start station 3, SCBA and right-handed searches.  We started this station by cutting pieces of dry wall to use for breakouts and then donning and doffing our ppe and SCBA multiple times. Four members of our company placed our SCBA on the engine and simulated arriving on scene to an incident and donning while walking towards our objective where we then went on air.  Next, we split into teams of 2 where we crawled through a dark obstacle course while on air doing a right handed search of our conex-box.  The course had multiple points where we had to breach walls (break through the drywall sections we just cut) and remove SCBAs to fit through holes.  Multiple walls were breach, with pieces of broken dry wall around us.  We climbed through walls and maneuvered up and around a set of stairs while communicating with each other in the dark.

 Our final station was Ladderland, at 1440.  Today was the first day we threw ladders while wearing SCBAs which will now be the new standard.  We were split into a group of six that worked on throwing one person 24’ ladders in various windows, roof lines. Techniques such as a rescue throw, entry throw, roofline throws and horizontal ventilation throws were practiced.  The remaining group of 4 practiced throwing 14’ ladders and 2 person 24’ ladders to full extension using both flat raises and beam raises. 

Academy Blog; Battalion 50; Wk5, Tuesday; Hose, Ladders, PWCs

Written by Cadet Morgan, Bravo Company Officer

OCRFA, Battalion 50, Bravo Company, Squad 3, s2

Tuesday September 18, 2018

 The day started at 0630 for Battalion 50 as the cadets arrived on academy grounds in preparation for the official start of the day. Unlike most other mornings we were ordered to wait until after PT (physical training) to stage our PPE (personal protective equipment). At 0645 the colors were raised with the American Flag followed by the California State flag. At 0645 we had our company officer briefing with each of the company officers as well as our battalion officer and Academy Coordinator Captain Crudo. Our officer briefings inform the cadets of what will need to be set up for the day’s drills as well as the order in which each company will rotate through drills. The daily rotation is set up with four drills, two in the morning and two after lunch.

 At 0700 we started PT, Bravo and Delta Companies began with a mile run while Alpha and Charlie Companies began with a circuit work out consisting of four stations. In the first part, the pace is set by tower runs while carrying hose packs up five stories; the second part of the circuit was pull ups and burpees, the third 170 pound dummy drags for 50 ft. and the fourth using a sledgehammer to hit a tire.

 At 0740 each company split up for drill station set up. Alpha Company set up the Portable Water Extinguishers Station. Bravo Company set up the Rehab Station consisting of three 5-gallon water containers and four small ice chests with water for instructors. We also set up traffic cones to block off the training area. Charlie Company set up the ladders in Ladder Land pulling out one 14’ straight ladder and eight 24’ extension ladders. Delta Company connected Engine 40 to a hydrant and ran a supply line to Engine 41 so we would have a water supply for interior and exterior stairwell operations.


At approximately 0830 we tended to personal hygiene. The cadets showered rapidly so we had time for a snack before we had to be at our first drill by 0900. Bravo Company started the day in Ladder Land with Captain Hundley from the Oxnard Fire Department where we practiced throwing the 24’ extension ladders with one person. With eight 24’ ladders and 10 Cadets it felt like we threw each ladder more times than we could count. After an hour and a half of ladders and a 10-minute rehab period, Bravo Company was on our way to the Portable Water Extinguishers Station for pallet fires training with Captain Gabriel from the Fillmore Fire Department. At this station we got to experience live fire for the first time in the academy. The cadets got to use both a straight stream and the spray method of putting water on the fire using portable water extinguishers. After we each had a chance to extinguish a pallet fire, Captain Gabriel showed us how to properly refill the extinguishers with water and recharge them with compressed air. Once we finished, we were dismissed to lunch by our Battalion Officer.


Around 1245 Bravo Company began to head back to our staging area to don our PPE and get ready for out next station which was interior stairwell operations at 1300 with Captain Kerns (ret.) from Los Angeles Fire Department and with Battalion Chief Santillo from Federal Fire Ventura County. At this station the cadets had to pull 1 ¾ attack line off the fire engine and place 50’ of hose outside of the building. Once we had the nozzle and 50’ of hose deployed we called for water and masked up (put our breathing apparatus on). Once all members were in PPE and breathing on air we made our entry into the building. The company member on the nozzle made their way up the stairs while the cadet playing the captain role followed them up. The second firefighter helped feed hose into the building so the nozzle member and captain could advance. Once on the second story, the nozzle member sprayed water out of a window while a captain dropped a drop-bag out of a different window calling for a tool. The cadet playing the engineer role tied a tool off to the rope and the captain hoisted it up completing the evolution for that station.


Our final station of the day was at the 1440 Exterior Stairwell Ops with Battalion Chief McNaughten from Oxnard Fire Department and Captain Jackson (ret.) from Los Angeles Fire Department. This station was very similar to the last except the stairwell was outside of the building. In this station, the nozzle member loaded 50’ of hose on to their shoulder and made their way up the stairs where they were met by a cadet playing a captain’s role. The nozzle member and captain laid out the hose so when they called for water it would fill nicely and be easy to advance. After we called for water we masked up, checked each other’s PPE and felt the door for heat. Captain Jackson told us, “If you feel heat towards the top of the door, open it carefully and spray up at the ceiling upon entry and stay low.” We did as he said, spraying the ceiling and making our way through the prop eventually spraying the hose out the window trying to knock a wood block off a pole in the distance. Again, like the station before, a cadet lowered a drop-bag and called for a tool. Once the tool was tied off and hoisted up that was the end of the drill.


At 1600 all of our drills for the day were complete so we began station break down. Each company broke down and cleaned the station they were assigned to. After the work was completed, two cadets were released to remove colors for the day. We then had a short summary of the day’s events discussing what we had learned. As the days go on, we are continuously building on what we have learned and look forward to what the next day will bring.


Academy Blog; Battalion 50; Wk5, Wednesday; Hose, Ladders, Construction

Written by Cadet Hooper; Charlie Company, Squad 5, s2


Hose, Ladders, Building Construction

Our day began at 6:30 am with the cadets staging their gear neatly in front of the apparatus bay. We took our turnouts from bunker row, and brought them to their designated area in company order. Once water was filled, and everybody was ready, we started PT (physical training) at 7:00. Cadet Rocha led us in our stretches to warm up, and then we began our 8 station circuit that consisted of tired drags, kettle bell swings, tractor tire flips, tower sprints, pullups, lunges, dummy drags, and hose pulls. We donned our structure jackets to increase the intensity of the workout and acclimate ourselves to the heat.

At 7:45, drenched in sweat, it was time to do all the set up for the drills that day. Each company was assigned a station to set up and get ready. Charlie company set up ladders and then helped in the apparatus bay to unload lumber for the construction station. Once everything was done we went to hygiene to shower, hydrate, and get some dry clothes on to begin our drills.

At 9:00 we were in our gear and starting the first drill of the day. Charlie company started our day constructing 6ft by 4ft wood structures that will be used later in the semester to simulate an incident involving a structure fire that needs to be extinguished. We worked with CS1 to cut and nail together various types of lumber, and by the end of our rotation we had 3 structures done. After our rotation we had 10 minute to rehab and move to our next station, which would be ground monitors, and hose and ladder operations.

In the first half of our second rotation we learned how to set up ground monitors. In this operation, four cadets take on the roles of firefighter 1, firefighter 2, engine operator, and captain. When the drill starts the cadets get off the engine and supply the engine with a 2 ½ inch hose line from a fire hydrant. From there a 4 inch line goes from the engine towards the fire and is attached to the ground monitor, which is a piece of equipment that shoots large amounts of water on the fire from a distance. This is typically used in a “defensive” operation where firefighters would not be inside of the structure that was on fire.

In the second half of our second rotation cadets learned how to take a 1 ½ inch line of the cross lay hose off the engine, advance it towards the fire, climb a ladder with it, and lock in to a position where they could then tie the hose to the ladder and attack the fire from a higher vantage point.  This operation also used four firefighters working together to get the hose to the ladders. After this rotation we debriefed with our instructors and headed back to staging to rehab before Cadet Johns (our battalion officer) dismissed us for lunch.

Lunch started at 12:00 and lasted for 50 minutes. At 12:50 Charlie company gathered and went back to staging to get ready for our ladder rotation.

Once at staging, Charlie Company donned full turnout gear and ran to Ladder Land, which is the part of the campus where we practice all of our ladder drills. Once we arrived at ladder land, firefighter Todd and firefighter Dvorin had us rotate throwing single person 24 ft extension ladders for 40 minutes, and then 2 person 24 ft ladders at the end of our rotation. With all of the repetitions we had throughout the week, Charlie company had come a long way and improved greatly since we first started.

From ladder land we went back to staging to rehab and hydrate without our gear on for ten minutes before heading to our final rotation of the day, replacing a burst hose line. In this rotation Captain Kearns taught cadets how to replace a burst hose in the middle of a hose lay. A cadet would start at the engine and advance 100 ft of dry hose towards the fire and then call for water. At this point the cadet put the nozzle at the end of the hose on the ground, and ran back to the engine where they took another 100 ft of hose and stretch it out next to the first hose on the floor. They would then get the hose clamp out of the engine, clamp the hose behind the one that burst 5 feet behind the coupling and replace the burst hose with the new one, making sure the nozzle was off first. Once every cadet got to run through the rotation, we all met back at rehab to hydrate and then went on to carryout our duties to break down the drills for the day. We ended with wiping down the engines and making sure everything was back in the apparatus bay and bunker row.

We all came together at our staging area to be debriefed by Captain Crudo. After that Cadet Johns dismissed us for the day which ended with every cadet yelling our battalion motto in unison:

“Battalion 50, Honor the legacy.”

Academy Blog; Wk5; Monday; Hose, Ladders, Running Power

9/17/18; Hose, Ladders, Running Power

Written by Cadet Dosh, Alpha Company, Squad 1

The day starts for cadets at 0630 with arrival and prepping for the day.   We get our PPE gear staged and our lockers and lunches set.    Today we had to turn in our work books for homework to our battalion leaders before 0700.   At 0700 we start our PT for the day and today they added an extra element of having to wear our structure jackets to get used to working in the extra heat.    We have our 10 station rotation of events where each squad is working until the squad on the tower completes their run and we rotate to the next station.    After PT, the company officers direct their crews to the appropriate station for set up of the day.   After set up, we move to hygiene where we can shower off, change, grab a snack and gather ourselves for the day.    The teaching starts at 0900. 

Today we had a four station rotation and through the eyes of alpha company it went like this. 

First station was work place set up with portable power and power saw training.   We worked with CS1 and went over the proper technique for cutting wood.    We learned to measure, mark with a crow’s foot on each side, chalk the line and then cut along that line using a skill saw.      The saws had to be set properly and measured with the blade just 1/8 of an inch below the wood we were cutting.  Proper safety and techniques were followed while working both skill and miter saws.     The purpose of this training was to learn to build the wooden outhouses we will be burning later.   We started cutting OSB and 2x4s to frame and sheet the houses.  These houses will be the exterior live fire props that will be ignited and extinguished during fire attack hose operations.

The 2nd station on our list was ladders, located at Ladder Land, where we learned to raise and place a 24ft extension ladder, then climb up it and into a window or onto a roof.    We learned to stabilize the ladder while someone is climbing it.  The proper technique for climbing, opposite hand and foot movements together with the two never on the same rung while climbing, was consistently enforced.  We also learned how to lock ourselves into the ladder with our leg so we could use our hands to safely work with tools on either side of the ladder.   Once we got the hang of that we learned how to climb up and down the ladder with a rubbish hook and chain saw.    From there we moved on to our 50 minute lunch.

After lunch we went to the third station where we learned to pull a 100 foot attack line and then add an extra 50 ft to it while it was charged and then advance the line forward again.    This drill had us running out with 100 ft of hose, charging the line and moving forward, then having to run back grab 50ft more of hose and a hose clamp.   We had to stop the supply of water and remove the nozzle to add the extra house quickly and then remove the clamp and advance the longer line forward. 

The final station of the day was split into two parts.   One was set up for us to work as an engine crew and set up a monitor for a defensive attack.  A ground monitor is a master stream device set up to provide larger volumes of water.  A fire fighter controls the distance of the stream by adjusting the angle and height of the nozzle.   We had to deploy the monitor and a 4 in hose line along with an additional line to a hydrant.    

The 2nd half of this station consisted of fire fighters running out attack lines, climbing up a 24ft ladder, locking in with our leg, tying off the hose, calling for water to charge the hose line and spraying water to a fire below. 

At 1600, we break down the station we are at and cleaned everything up to be ready for the next day.   After everything was put away and apparatus was wiped down, we lined up as Captain Crudo debriefed us, then we dismissed for the day.

Academy Blog; Battalion 50, Wk4; Thursday, Hose/Ladders/Tools Aloft

9/13 Hose, Ladders, Tools Aloft

Written by Cadet Burke

We started off our day staging our gear bright and early at 0630 hours. Boots, trousers, coats and SCBA’s lined up and looking prestige as we awaited for PT (physical training) to begin. Our PT that day consisted of a circuit and mile run. Once we finished we split into our companies and began setting up the four stations for the day. The stations were forward hose lay, reverse hose lay, tools aloft, and ladders. After quickly preparing the stations we went to hygiene and grabbed a quick snack to keep us going throughout the first part of our day.

At 0900 hours we began our first two rotations. Since it was our second day doing forward and reverse hose lays we became much quicker and got through more repetitions than the day before. We really started to understand the different jobs of each member on the engine and how to properly execute our mission of getting water to the fire. Upon completing our first two rotations it was time for lunch. All companies reported back to staging and awaited to be dismissed. Our lunch began at 1200 hours and at 1300 hours we were back to our stations eager to learn what our new station had in store for us. Tools aloft consisted on tying a variety of different knots onto tools and hoisting them up a building. The four main knots we used to hoist the tools were a clove hitch, half hitch, inline bowline, and a figure eight on a bight. We were taught how and where to tie these knots on chainsaws, rubbish hooks, pike poles, axes, ladders, charged hose lines and uncharged hose lines. Over at ladder land there were 24-foot extension ladders and 14-foot roof ladders waiting for our arrival. We practiced where to place the ladder when performing different functions such as roof access, ventilation, and rescue. After we got more comfortable with the placement of the ladders we had a TOC (tournament of champions) where everyone goes head to head to see who can correctly throw a ladder the quickest and most effectively.

 As soon as we knew it the day had come to an end when the companies were notified to clean their stations and report back to staging. Tools were put away, hose was loaded onto the beds of the engines, and PPE (personal protective equipment) was placed away in the bunkers. We completed our day with a brief over view on how the stations went and what was to come the following week. Our Battalion officer dismissed us and we were on our way to enjoy our weekend.

Burke, Delta 1

Academy Blog; Battalion 50: Wk 4, Hose Lays, Chainsaw Workshop, 24’ Ladder Ops

Written by Cadet Mahoney,

September 12, 2018

 Our day began at 0630 with cadets “staging” their gear in a uniform and orderly fashion with respects to company order. After making sure all of our gear was in order with our helmets, turnout jackets, bunker pants/ boots and self contained breathing apparatus were in line; our company officers set off to attend an officer briefing at 0650 to be assigned our duties and rotation times/ locations for the day. The meeting was set in Captain Crudo’s office where she would delegate responsibility to each company for setting up our rotations, determining times of moving to the next station, the location of the stations and radio distribution.

 At 0700 we started our workout of the day. The workout was a specified circuit run by Cadet Rocha. The circuit consisted of hose pack tower runs (10 flights of stairs), 50 feet dummy drags that weigh 170 pounds, 50 feet tire drags, pull ups, lunges, tractor tire flips, 35 pound kettle bell swings, and hose drag sprints/ pulls for 75 feet. This day we had a change up; we would be wearing our turn out jackets during physical training, which made working out a little more difficult.

 At 0745, with a wet and salty shirt Battalion 50 made our way to set up stations for the day. Alpha Company was tasked with make sure all of the engines that would be used had 150 feet of 1 ¾ inch hose in the cross lay (pre-connected portion) of the engine, Bravo Company was assigned to set up the chainsaw workshop in the apparatus bay. Bravo needed to put out 4 chainsaws, screnches (chainsaw tool) and sharpening jigs. Charlie Company had to set up “rehab” which consists of 5 gallon Gatorade containers filled with water distributed to each station and cone set up to block off the stations. Finally, Delta Company was tasked with setting up (2) 14-foot aluminum solid beam roof ladders and (5) 24-foot aluminum solid beam extension ladder to ladderland (battalion 50’s favorite station). Hygiene would be from 0830 to 0850 and we would be at our stations ready to work at 0855.

 The first station was Forward Hose Lays, lead by Captain Kearns and Captain Peters of The Los Angeles City Fire Department. Building off what we learned on Monday, cadets would pull a 4-inch supply line with a 4-way valve at the female end and wrap a dry hydrant and yell for the engineer to “TAKE OFF”. After the apparatus got to the objective, the Engineer would disconnect the supply line from the hydrant and couple the line to the suction inlet on the apparatus. After the supply line is connected, Fire fighter 1 and the Captain would begin pulling “folds” off the hose bed of 2 ½ inch hose to the desired length. FF1 and the Captain would then advance the desired length of hose to the fire and would call for “WATER”. With the Engineer acknowledging the call for water and respond with “WATER COMING” would uncouple the 2 ½ in attack line at couple it to the discharge. At this point the evolution would be finished and cadets would break down and prepare for the next group.

 The next station was the Reverse Hose Lay. Engineer Ketaily and Captain Jacalone of Los Angeles Fire Department ran this station. This operation is very similar to Forward hose lays. First, Fire fighter 1 and Firefighter 2 would start pulling an attack line to the objective at a desired length. Once the length is achieved Fire fighter 1 will stand at the nozzle and call “WATER” mean while Fire fighter 2 will disconnect the attack line and place it next to the a Wye that the engineer put on the ground to connect the lines. While this is going on, the Captain would remove a 14-foot roof ladder and axe and place it on the ground off to the side to be used. After the Captain grounds the ladder and axe, he/ she would return to the opposite hose bed and remove the 4-inch line, walks 5 steps from the apparatus, steps on the line and tells the engineer to “TAKE OFF”. After the apparatus reaches the hydrant, the engineer connects the a line to the suction and opens the discharge after the FF2 connects the attack line to the discharge.

The next station is Ladderland. Today we worked with Captain Hundley of Oxnard Fire Department. Captain Hundley gave us a basic intro in two people throwing of a 24-foot Aluminum solid beam extension ladder. The station consisted of loudness, hard work, sweat and Captain Hundley working with us on our technique.

 The final station was an intro chain saw workshop led by Firefighter Mac of the United Forest Service flight crew in Santa Barbara. The start of the workshop consisted of Firefighter Mac teaching us how to properly maintain a chainsaw, from removing the bar/ chain, clutch assembly, properly tension a chain and sharpen a chain. From there we went out side to learn how to properly start the saws, identify how the saw should sound when its running properly and engage the chain brake.

 As we get more hands on experience with the tools and procedures explained above, we have find that muscle memory is starting to kick in and we are working really well as a team.

Academy Blog, Battalion 50, Wk4, Tuesday, Attack Lines

Hose Operations at the Main Campus, September 11th

Written by Cadet Galindo, Bravo 3,

Battalion 50’s day began at 0630 where we focused on preparing for the long day to come. Cadets made trips in and out of the locker room and bunker row (where our gear is stored), collecting our PPE (personal protective equipment), lunches, and extra clothing in anticipation of getting wet. At 0645 Cadets assigned to colors (the raising of the American Flag followed by the California flag), yelled “colors” to notify all others. All cadets stop what they are doing, stand at attention facing the Flags, and give their undivided attention. The raising of the flag on the 17th anniversary of the World Trade Center attack seemed to bring unity and strength within our battalion as we stood in silence.

At 0645, immediately following colors, the company officer meeting began in Captain Crudo’s office where we talked about further preparation and details of the day. Crews were assigned a task to complete prior to departure to the Oxnard College main campus. Cadets ensured that all four engines being utilized were loaded with two structure packs, two hose beds with 200 feet of pre-connected hose and a large variety of nozzles.  Three rehab containers were filled and loaded into Cadet Rocha’s truck.  Soon after, all cadets were truly ready to begin their day, with their PPE and necessities loaded into their driver’s vehicle.  

At 0805 we departed to Oxnard College, four engines followed by all cadet vehicles heavily loaded with the personal gear we would be utilizing for the day.  Upon arrival at the main campus, cadets set a staging location to stow PPE and belongings, while ensuring uniformity. Cadets then began to set up each engine in preparation for our four station drill rotation, each station covering different aspects of attack hose.

Station 1 consisted of the operation of four different types of nozzles: the smooth bore nozzle which delivers a solid stream and is used on large structure fires that require high water penetration, the cellar nozzle which is used when attacking a fire in a basement or cellar and is able to be dropped down into the fire room and operate while unmanned by a firefighter, a standard adjustable fog nozzle that may provide a straight stream for penetration or a fog pattern for protection, and the bayonet/piercing nozzle that is designed to be penetrated into a material that is on fire and deliver water.  Station 2 taught how to extend a charged hose line, how to replace a downed or burst hose line and how to advance an attack hose line to an objective. Station 3 consisted of learning proper techniques on how to advance dry hose, call for water from the engineer and continue to advance that charged hose line. Station 4 introduced the assembly and deployment of a trunk line and structure bundle that consists of 100 feet of hose, a nozzle, and in some cases a gated wye (used to branch a single hose into two hoses).

Station rotations were broken down into AM and PM rotations. The AM rotation consisted of two stations beginning at 0900 and ending at 1140, leading into lunch. At 1200 all cadets aligned around the flagpole, joined by students and staff of Oxnard College where we were all captivated by Oxnard College President, Cynthia Azari and Fire Academy Coordinator, Tami Crudo as they gave heartfelt speeches about 9/11.  A moment of silence followed.  We continued lunch until 1230 and resumed our rotations until 1530 when we began station clean up, so we could depart from the main campus at 1600.

When we returned to the academy grounds, we immediately filled the drying rack with used hose and snaked out remaining hose to dry to prevent mold and mildew accumulation. We then cleaned all apparatus that we used for the day and took inventory of the equipment we used. All cadets put full effort into cleaning because of the pride we take in our equipment. Captain Crudo then debriefed the Battalion, and our battalion officer dismissed us for the day.

Academy Blob, Battalion 50, Wk4-Monday; Laying Lines; Basic Hose Ops;

Written by Cadet Johns, Battalion Officer, “50”

The day began with cadets arriving at 0630. As with every day, the first order of business was raising the flags. Cadets began retrieving their PPE’s from bunker row and staging them neatly in front of the apparatus bay.
After staging equipment, at 0650 Company officers reported to Captain Crudo’s office for the morning briefing. The daily plan was discussed, and companies were assigned to their designated stations for set up. Typically following the morning briefing, the Battalion’s workout of the day takes place. However, since today was the first day of a rigorously times 4 station drill, cadets reported to the classroom for a quiz on ladder commands, and hose lays we were to learn about over the weekend.

As cadets finished their quizzes, they were to fall out of the classroom and begin the set up for the station their company was assigned to. Alpha company was assigned to setting up the rehab stations and coning off the areas to be used for the day. Bravo was given the task to clear all the weeds and debris in the area surrounding the academy’s knot rack. Charlie company was delegated with the task to grab ten 14’ ladders, and four 24’ extension ladders and stage them at “Ladder Land”- which is a lot more fun than it sounds. Lastly, Delta was given the job to ensure that all engines had 200ft of 1 ¾”  hose flat loaded, laid in layers, in the Cross lays (the area at the mid-way point of the engine that has hose running perpendicular to the hose in the back of the engine).

Any company that finished before our 0845-briefing time, assisted the other companies that needed more hands-on deck. At 0845, Captain Crudo addressed the Battalion, briefing us on how the remainder of the day will be organized, and introducing us to the instructors for the day. Equivalent to the “Ready, Set, Go” of a race, once the briefing was over, cadets hustled to their designated stations.

The first station of the day was for cadets to learn the process of a Forward Hose Lay. Steps involved in this process were to pull 3-inch hose off the engine, wrapping around a hydrant, and securing it. Once secure, cadets would yell the command “TAKE OFF!” giving the cue to the engineer (driver) to proceed forward. As the engine moved forward, toward where the destination would be, more hose unraveled. For this drill, once the first coupling dropped out of the bed of the engine, the engine would stop. The Cadet at the hydrant would then begin attaching the hose to the hydrant. While the cadet acting as engineer would then pull more of the hose from the bed until another coupling hit the ground. At this point the cadet acting as engineer would disconnect the coupling from the hose and attach the male end of it to the suction (intake) inlet on the engine and yell “WATER” to which the cadet at the hydrant would respond “WATER COMING” and begin flowing water to the engine.

At 1025 the first rotation ended, all cadets were to take a 10-minute rehab break to rehydrate and cool down and be at their next station at 1040. 1040 was the start of the second station which was essentially the same process as the first, the one change here was that instead of the engine pulling forward to unload the hose, cadets had to pull the entire length of hose needed off the engine. The drill came to an end at 1200 and cadets returned to the staging area and headed off to lunch. Lunch came to an end at 1250 and cadets were at their next station at 1300.

The third rotation of the day was ladders, this is where cadets were given the opportunity to get their hands on a 14’ roof ladder. The instructors walked the cadets through the motions of two different types of raises; a beam raise, and a flat raise. Stressing the importance of proper technique, proper announcement, and the difference between a preparatory command and an execution command. After a few walk-throughs, and a couple corrections for proper form, orchestrated chaos ensued with 10 cadets moving in deliberate and loudly announced moves. “Beam – Ladder. Shoulder – Ladder. Forward – Ladder. CLEAR ABOVE. Beam-Raise – Ladder. Lean – Ladder.” Once these announcements and movements were performed, cadets checked their climbing angle, ensuring it was at approximately 75 degrees, and checked that there were four points of contact, then they proudly gave the last command “LADDER READY TO CLIMB!” at which point an instructor would check their work, and clear them to take down the ladder. Taking down the ladder followed the same type of preparatory commands, and execution commands, until all ladders were grounded. Before the cadets knew it, it was already 1425 and time to rotate. Next station began at 1440, which gave them 10 minutes to refill waters, and cool down, and 5 minutes to get to the final station of the day.

The last station of the day was an instructional walkthrough of the differences between a forward hose lay (that was learned earlier in the day) while adding in the element of deploying an attack line as well. We were also shown a reverse hose lay which was the opposite of a forward lay. A forward lay was dropping off a supply line at a hydrant and continuing to the objective. Whereas a reverse lay will drop a firefighter off with an attack line near the objective and proceed to the hydrant.While this station was an instructional one, it was a vital piece of information for cadets’ future drills in the days to come.

At 1600, all cadets were instructed to begin station break down, and clean up. This consisted of returning all ladders that were brought out, washing any hose that was used and placing it on the drying racks, and wiping down the engines used. Cadets are learning very quickly to leave things better than the way they found them; a characteristic that can be attributed to every aspect of life.

Once station breakdown was complete, engines were cleaned, and flags were taken down for the day, Captain Crudo addressed the battalion. Going over what the cadets learned and sharing pieces of information that cadets found out about along the way. At 1700 the battalion, now one day stronger, let their pride of a hard day’s work show as they collectively yelled “BATTALION 50 – HONOR THE LEGACY!”

Academy Blog Series, Battalion 50, Wk 3, Written by Alpha Company

                                                           Water Delivery Systems (9/4)
The start of week 3 began at 0650 on Tuesday with a morning briefing detailing the day’s events, and also assigning September’s Company Officers. Immediately following the briefing, at 0700, the Battalion’s morning workout began. This morning’s workout (PT) consisted of an 8 station circuit; a trip up and down the 6 story OCRFA tower carrying a hose pack, dummy dragging, tire pulling, pull-ups, lunges, tire flips, kettle bell swings, and fire hose sprint and pull.

Company Officers for September were announced following the 45 minute PT, Alpha Company now being led by Cadet Ferguson and supported by Cadet Rocha, and Cadet Henggeler, Bravo Company being led by Cadet Morgan supported by Cadet Hanna, and Cadet Galindo, Charlie Company being led by Cadet Brito supported by Cadet Weil and Cadet Mahoney and lastly, Delta Company being led by Cadet Alexander, supported by Cadet Gallagher, and Cadet Fricke.

After announcements, the Battalion began setting up the day’s drill station. Sweeping, mopping, drying the floor of the apparatus bay, and then staging all of our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) in a tightly organized fashion on the floor of the apparatus bay. After set up, cadets were sent to hygiene, then returned to their PPE’s for the Battalions first uniform inspection of the Academy at 0920. As cadets stood at attention with a thousand yard stare, Captain Crudo methodically inspected each cadet, checking for complete uniformity among the Battalion, ensuring gig lines were straight, pants and shirts were creased, faces were shaved, and boots were shined.

After inspection, the introduction to water delivery systems began. Cadets were taught how a fire engine’s pump operated, how to fill an engine’s water tank from a hydrant, and how to operate a portable pump to fill an engine tank from man-made or natural water sources. The session started in the class room where we were given an overview of pumping systems, water storage facilities, reservoirs, hydrants and natural water sources. We went over the steps of moving water from those sources through a fire engine or portable pumps while maintaining proper pump pressures.

From the class room we went out to engines for hands on training. Captian Crudo showed us how the different suction sections worked to pull water into the pump and then either sent to the discharge or into the tank depending on which valve was open. We then split up into our four companies and worked together to set up drafting out of mobile water storage containers. We learned to attach the hard suction together then attach that to the main suction on the engine.  The strainer was attached to the end and tied off to ensure it was not touching the bottom of tank.  The tank was placed less than 20 feet from the engine. We would then suction the water out of the storage container into our engine tanks.   

From there we hooked up a hose to the discharge and would fill the water back into the storage tanks with a 1 ½ in hose and fog nozzle. We filled the tanks back up and used the water for our portable pumps. We learned to attach the hard suction line and foot strainer to the eye of the impeller on the portable pump. From there we would attach a hose from the impeller discharge to the auxiliary suction on the engine. This was another form of drafting that is used in wild land often to fill up the engine tanks. We would start up the pumps and fill the tanks on the engine.

Capitan Crudo, as usual, likes to pit us against each other for friendly competition and each squad had a turn to get timed setting up their hard suction and then the portable pump and get it running. The squad with the best time won. To make things more difficult she switched the engines up on the 2nd round and threw many people for a loop. Squad one got 3rd place with 3 min and 13 seconds and that is all that really matters there. After the battalion finished our competition, we all participated in cleaning up the grounds in order to prepare for the next day.

Numerous tasks had to be completed upon dismissal. Each company was responsible for ensuring all tools and equipment were returned to the proper engine and stored as we found it. The battalion used four portable tanks, which were filled with water. These all had to be emptied, along with the engines full of water. In front of the Apparatus bay, water was everywhere, but that just signified that our battalion had learned a lot and got to experience some of the ways water can be drafted. Each of the drained portable tanks was placed inside the Apparatus bay (the garage where our fire engines are kept) right near the CPAT area, in front of all bottles used for our SCBAs.

Our gear was originally placed in the Apparatus bay for the morning’s inspection, but was returned to a place called Bunker Row where we normally store it. Once the apparatus floor was clear, our engines could move back inside after the clean up outside was completed. Captain Kromka taught our battalion how to clean each of our engines during our first week; so once Captain Crudo backed them all in, we each got rags and various amounts of cleaning product and began cleaning our engines to ensure they all looked brand new again.

The hoses we used were taken to the drying rack to ensure they would be dried before rolling them to be stored. A couple of members let the apparatus bay doors down, and made sure that everything was sealed up and ready for the next day. Captain Crudo debriefed the Battalion, and then Cadet Johns, our battalion officer dismissed us for the day.

                                                                 Hose Introduction (9/5)

We started the morning at 0650 with some routine PT. The PT consisted of morning stretches all in formation with our PT leader Cadet Rocha sounding off the count for stretching, after stretching was achieved the Battalion was assigned to a station to start the PT. Stations consisted of a dummy drag, tire drag, pull ups and burpees, tire flips, lunges, hose drags, and a tower run twice with a hose pack on the cadet's shoulder, the tower run set the pace for the station rotations. After PT was completed the Cadets did a post workout cool down stretch. 

After morning PT and stretching was done each company was assigned a task to set up in the app bay for the lecture that Captain Crudo was going to do for the day. After these tasks were completed the battalion went off to hygiene to get showered and changed into station boot, pants and shirt no blouse. Once every cadet was done with hygiene, we lined up in the breeze way in company order with cover (hat) on head and water bottle in our left hand with our names facing out, once everyone was accounted for we all went to the app bay and awaited Captain Crudo to give a lecture. 

Captain Crudo started her lecture with reviewing different types of hose, such as wildland hoses with a single jacket to be light to carry up mountains and 4 inch supply lines that were massive in size and used to deliver water from the hydrant to the engine most commonly. Then Captain reviewed the nozzles with fog, straight and solid stream patterns and couplings which are attachments to either help make connections fit or to break off to another spot, such as a gated wye which allows two discharge lines to come off of one trunk line.

After the lecture was completed, the battalion was asked to retrieve their hoods from their PPE (personal protective equipment). Then they were asked to put on the hoods backwards in a challenge with their own companies to make the longest attachment possible but blinded by the backwards hood. Alpha achieved the longest length of 51 inches, a well-deserved victory by Alpha Company.

Flat hose loads used for supply and attack lines off the rear of the engine were covered next. The battalion was broken up into four companies; Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta. Each group rotated crew members through learning how to fold the hose in the appropriate manner, incorporating dutchman folds and short loading in order to prevent coupling entanglements during the deploying process. The importance of dutchman folds and short loading cannot be understated as they serve an integral role by allowing coupled (connected hose lines) to pay straight out and freely during the unloading process. Once each company grasped the foundation of flat loads on the floor level of the apparatus bay, the battalion was released for lunch. Battalion Officer Johns called for the dismissal, allowing us to proudly exhale our class motto, “Battalion 50, HONOR THE LEGACY!”

Before returning to the Apparatus bay (App Bay) the battalion lined up in formation in the breezeway to migrate as a unit, ensuring to hit their 90’s upon each turn, carrying water bottles in hand and covers (hats) on their heads. Each company was assigned to unload 500 feet of four-inch rubber supply hose line off the bed of their designated engine. Once unloaded, Captain Crudo directed how to uncouple the attached line, using single and two person methods. Incorporating these new skills, each member began coupling and uncoupling each stick of hose until each felt proficient in their ability.

Feeling comfortable with the general concept of hose construction, hose layout, coupling and uncoupling, the companies were now tasked with reloading the 500 ft of hose back onto the engine using the method learned earlier in the app bay. This task is made possible by the “Hose Owner” and rear and front-end holder. The Hose Owner is director of the hose line. He maintains constant contact with the hose and directs and communicates hose line placement from the initial entrance onto the engine, to the rear of the bed. Maintaining a constant visual for potential kinks in the line, the Hose Owner would call for a Dutchman or a short load in order to maintain the integrity of the line flow until the entire 500 ft of four-inch house was secured neatly back onto the engine bed. This drill was done a total of three times, with each member of the company taking turns passing, coupling and/or guiding the hose back onto the engine. Special recognition should be given to Cadet Gallagher who set the standard for the level of precision and neatness required to properly stow the four-inch rubber supply hose lines.

It was now time to put our skills to the test. Each company unloaded their 500 ft. of four-inch hose combining for 2,000 ft. of connection in an attempt to create a snake-like pattern from the nearest hydrant to the main suction valve of Engine 41. The hope was that all 2,000 ft. would be able to sustain even level of flow without kinking. That hope was lost after the initial 500 ft saw numerous kinks and didn’t pay as planned.  Once pressure was finally able to push through the entire 2,000 ft., Captain Crudo directed the battalion in the appropriate and safe way to un-kink our snake-like supply line. With all kinks removed, all 2,000 ft. were broken down and reloaded to their respected engines.

Hose rolling was taught next. We held company races to see who could flake out and roll up a stick of hose or 50 feet.  First we had Alpha and Charlie companies unroll their hose and roll them back up into an out of service roll, which means leaving the male end of the hose on the outside and in an overhand knot.  Next we had Bravo and Delta companies unload their hose and roll it with an in service roll which leaves the female end exposed.  Immediately after finishing our race, Fire Technology students were on a tour of the grounds.  They challenged Alpha squad to another race where we were hustled by a group of explorers and cadets.  Once we were done with the final race, Alpha and Charlie unrolled each stick of hose and washed and scrubbed them with water and push brooms, then hung them on our drying rack while Bravo and Delta put away all of the tools and cleaned up the apparatus bay before we all came together to clean each of the engines.

                                                       Ladder Introduction & SCBA (9/6)

Battalion 50’s day began at 0650. We arrive to campus early to ensure that we have enough time to make a trip to the locker room to drop off our uniforms and lunches then bunker row on the way back to pick up our turnouts that we set up in staging, located just south of the Apparatus Bay. Once our turnouts are neatly folded and placed uniformly, we double time over toward the North side of our drill tower where Cadet Rocha leads the Battalion in stretching and informs us what our work out will be for the day.

Cadet Rocha assigned Alpha and Charlie companies to go on a one-mile company run around the facility together. With Alpha and Charlie running, Cadet Rocha assigned Bravo and Delta to do a series of 30-yard sprints between cones placed in the parking lot. Bravo and Delta’s circuit ended once Alpha and Charlie were complete with their mile run. Once companies were through with their first assignments of PT, the groups switch assignments. After rotations were complete, Battalion Officer Johns thought he would implement a little competition between companies due to the amount of time left for PT. 50 wanted each company to do a relay against each other of 30-yard sprints. All companies enjoyed the competition against each other.

Drill station set up started after workout.  Alpha was assigned to set ladders up while the other three companies would go off to hygiene. Alpha set up three 14’ Roof Ladders and three 24’ ft. Extension Ladders just south of the tower for our “Introduction to Ladders” with Captain Hundley of Oxnard City Fire Department.  Captain Crudo wanted all of the battalion to meet in the breezeway in station pants, boots, nametag, hats and blouses then funnel into the classroom to elect a Battalion President. Nominations were written on the board and the Battalion voted. 

Captain Hundley arrived during the elections and began his presentation while votes were counted.  He shared his extensive knowledge of ladders and how to set them up, and explained the proper commands to give when doing so. The introduction included the types, sizes and use of ladders we will be handling, along with the verbal commands we will shouting as we handle the ladders. Once the introduction was completed Captain Hundley wanted all the battalion to meet him outside just south of the tower with our PPE (personal protective equipment) on, which included our helmets, brush jackets and utility gloves.

We met in a half circle around the ladders that were set up in the morning by Alpha Company.  Captain Hundley gave us a demonstration. He showed us how to throw ladders with the proper technique and command. With all of the cadets itching at a chance to throw their first ladder, they eagerly jumped at the opportunity to practice with one of the three aluminum 14’ roof ladders.  Lunch followed the drill. 

Captain Crudo led a structured knot tying practice.  Different knots were called out to practice tying within a certain time range.  The callouts got more complicated with multiple knots being tied in succession.  The Battalion raced to don PPE and tie the designated knot.  We competed against each other for four rounds, while also learning and honing our skills. We then practiced properly donning our SCBA, which included helmet, hood, and face piece connected to our SCBAs. As the end of the day neared, we were instructed to stow our PPE back in bunker row but with a twist. We were ordered to take everything else off before we could take our facemask and mask mounted regulator off.

The battalion returned to class for their first exam of the academy. Tests were taken one at a time until the 4 chapter exam was complete. The first cadets finished with their exam were assigned colors.  Once colors were bedding appropriately, finishing cadets were free to dismiss for the day.

Fall 2018; OCRFA, Battalion 50, Alpha Company

Johns, Dosh, Soto, Rocha, Donia, Stancil, Henggeler, Ferguson, Blaker, Gonzalez


Academy Blog Battalion 50

Academy Blog Series; Battalion 50

Welcome to the return of the Academy Blog Series.  This semester the blog will follow the academy lives of Battalion 50, a group of forty-two cadets coming from a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience.  Readings will post every few days with topics surrounding the Battalion’s story a day at a time.  Each article written will be from an assigned cadet’s point of view.  Every cadet has a writing assignment for a specific day.  Entire companies have also been assigned a group written effort specific to a given week.

This semester is a historical one as it marks our 50th Firefighter 1 academy.  The battalion has appropriately chosen their motto, ”Honor the Legacy”.   Their elected President is Cadet Rocha, Treasurer, Cadet Blaker and Event Coordinator, Cadet Hanna.

August leadership appointments consisted of Cadet Johns, 50, as their Battalion Officer, Cadet Henngeler, 150, will be serving as his deputy.  Henngeler played double duty and was also appointed as Alpha Company Officer, Alpha 1.  Bravo 1 was Cadet Galindo, Charlie 1, Cadet Mahoney and Delta 1, Cadet Fricke.  These cadets were appointed as first round officers because of leadership and previous training strengths.  Three of the four officers successfully graduated from last summer’s Wildland Fire Academy, finishing with high marks.  September began with newly appointed officers.  August leaders will now serve in company mentorship roles as they guide incoming peers.

We hope you enjoy following Battalion 50’s semester story.  Whether you read as a family member, friend or interested person, I’m convinced you’ll be anxiously awaiting each article.

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 43

Week 3    Hose, Ladders, Strike, SCBA Confidence, Electrical, Heavy, Tools Aloft

Week three was the Battalion’s first full on five day drill week, their most challenging yet.  During this week, the group’s basis firefighter skill set will expand tremendously and physical fitness strengthen considerably. 

Early planning and drill set up during week two made for a smoother Monday morning as the Battalion prepared for Hose, Ladders and Strike.  The day was set with a typical drill day rotation, two stations at Hose, Forward Lay and Reverse Lay, one station at Ladders and the last station at the roof prop for a drill we call Strike, each station set at ninety minute rotations and building off skills learned the drill before.  Drill set-up assignments were determined at the morning officer’s briefing. Alpha Company set up ladders, both 14’ roof and 24’ extension, Bravo swept and mopped apparatus floors, placed dry hydrants for drilling and set traffic cones for safety, Charlie set up cadet rehab areas and Delta delivered all the tools and wood to the roof prop to rebuild after Strike.

Forward and Reverse hose lays continued with practice on mastering the skills shown the week earlier.  Ladder skills however, are expanded on a gradually increasing scale.  Cadets first learned the balance and techniques of placing a 14’ roof ladder, then were introduced to the heavier more cumbersome 24’ extension ladder.  Extension ladder lessons began with the cadets working in pairs to properly place the tool to the building.  Once a comfort zone was created, cadets were instructed to continue the work in pairs, but now with one cadet holding the ladder to the building from underneath, called footing the ladder, while the other climbed it.

Some may think ladder climbing skills come as second nature, until they climb that first ladder.  Hand and foot movements must be coordinated and remain opposite to maintain a level climbing balance.  Learning this balance in the first round will do wonders later when climbing these same ladders while carrying tools aloft, to above floors or the roof.  Cadets were taught to force their right leg to move in motion with their left arm and visa-versa, much easier going up than climbing down.  A number of the cadets climbed initially with hesitation as their bodies were held within inches of the ladder’s rungs, but as repeated trips up and down the ladders were completed, confidence built with all but a small few still needing more climbing practice.

Locking off while working from a ladder is required for safe fire ground operations.  As one cadet would foot the ladder, the other would climb to the desired height, plant one leg on a rung, adjust the other leg through the ladder rungs then wrap their foot around the ladder’s outside beam.  This type of leg securing allows firefighters to perform work from that position on the ladder while maintaining stability during tool use.  However, before a cadet is allowed to perform actual work from that secured position, they must show confidence with their leg locking ability.  So as Cadet Vasquez footed the ladder, Cadet Steele demonstrated his confidence by climbing appropriately to the designated height, positioning his legs accordingly and leaning back to look up to the skies with his arms spread wide.  Every cadet demonstrated this skill before moving to their next assignment of actually performing work off that ladder while secured.  By the end of the day, each team worked comfortably while communicating their actions to their crew member footing the ladder below, Cadet Robles, “Working off my right!”…Cadet Sisk, ”Copy, working off your right!”

At Strike, cadets learned more about hand tool use.  Last week they performed overhead axe work, breached walls, pried door jambs and broke simulated glass on ground and above level floors.  Today, the hand tool use continued, same tools, different setting.  Axe swing was practiced on a flat area prop.  Two methods were practiced, one to breach or cut a hole through a plywood sub-floor, the other to cut through a thicker wood structural member, such as a floor joist.  As Cadets Ebrahim, Roberto, Thurman and James quickly learned, having comfortable productive axe swings prevents early fatigue and gets the job done in minutes.

Proper aiming and prying techniques are some of the basic skills necessary for forcing entry into a building.  Hand tool placement on the object to be forced and firefighter hand and finger placement on the tools being used to force takes considerable practice.  Door jamb breaching was learned during Pry.  During Strike breaching padlocks, hinges, well seated eye bolts and lag bolts were taught.  One cadet would hold a rigid tool on the object to be forced, then call “Strike!” so their crew member would swing and hit that tool, breaching the objective and thus entering the building. As an example, once Cadet Guy was shown how to properly position his body while holding the Striking tool, a couple of methodical swings of his sledge hammer were enough to force the haligan tool, Cadet Pruter was holding, through the lag bolt.

All that great destructive work requires significant construction work.  Once all companies completed and cleaned up their afternoon stations, they were instructed to report to the roof prop to rebuild and replace all the consumable supplies destroyed throughout the day.  Cadets worked like crews on assignment, each company with their own duties, with all officers reporting their progress and requesting reassignment once their job was complete.  The day ended in the academy classroom with discussions surrounding the new skills learned and the general expectations of the following morning.

At the recommendations of Battalion 42, an expansion of leadership roles was introduced this semester.  As a result, company officers have been given considerable responsibility to provide for their crew needs while completing coordinator assigned tasks.  They have also been assigned an appointed cadet within their company to assist them, with the intent to prepare those assistants for the next role of company officers.  Discussion surrounding the progress of this new format and the implementation of a mentoring position was the focus of Tuesday morning’s briefing.  The officers were asked to give opinion on how the volume of new responsibilities affected them and if the seconds in command appeared ready to move forward.  All officers agreed time in the seat would help assistants prepare for their full role as the primary company officer.

Acting assignments are a common practice in many fire departments.  The assignments are given to personnel who have successfully completed their department’s promotional testing process.  These personnel ranked high on the list and may soon be promoted.  A typical acting assignment scenario would be to staff a position held by an officer who is away from duty because of illness or injury with a high scoring candidate in the Captain’s promotional process.  So keeping close to that concept, an Acting Company Officer position was created.  For the remainder of this week, the current company officers, Otani, Cervantes, Mulvehill and Lee would mentor their assistants, Robles, Hampton, Wagner and Hobbs, then later trade places to mentor the new acting officers as they performed. 

Tuesday’s light rain altered the morning’s early plans. Physical fitness continued with a group warm up under cover in the Fire Tech breezeway and a three mile formation run on the grounds.  A morning uniform inspection was scheduled and rather than postponing it, the inspection location was changed from the mat to the Fire Tech hallway, not as accommodating as the Mat, but cozy.  At 0845, the Battalion stood at attention as the inspection commenced.  Once complete, the group moved to the academy classroom for a fill-in ladder command quiz.  Each cadet was to write all commands to be spoken when using the flat and beam raise methods for placing a 14’ roof ladder and a 24’ extension ladder using two firefighters.

Gaining confidence when performing in self-contained-breathing-apparatus, SCBA is an absolute must for successful academy completion and firefighter survival.  Numerous drills are planned and scheduled to allow cadets ample time for gaining this confidence, from the beginning stages of equipment familiarization and structured donning practice to wearing the bottle and harness assembly while placing 24’ extension ladders.  It’s extremely important for each cadet’s body to get acclimated to wearing it on the fire ground and breathing through it comfortably while performing fire attack.

SCBA Confidence is a drill conducted in the academy apparatus bay, with the Certified Physical Abilities Test, CPAT tunnel as the primary focus.  The tunnel is used as an instructional aide and serves as a darkened space for cadets to crawl through while breathing bottled air.  A number of passes are made, each requiring more skill and competence.  The first pass had cadets on air with standard tunnel visibility.  Cadets Fudge and Barrett stood at the tunnel entrance ready to move the canvas cover draped over the opening as Cadets Ebrahim, Pulido, Moore and Sisk prepared themselves for their first pass.  The rotations continued until the entire Battalion successfully completed their first trek. 

The second pass required greater confidence.  Cadets were to pull their nomex hoods over their masks to impede sight as they felt their way from one end of the tunnel to other.  Team work was important during this pass, as entering cadets worked with poor to no visual.  As Cadets Mulvehill and Steele monitored the canvas entrance, Cadet Duda knelt to a crawl position, hood pulled well over his mask, breathing air with zero visibility.  Duda eager to enter, crawls in the blind, hitting the wall of the tunnel entrance, Mulvehill quickly intervenes guiding him in the right direction.

The third and last pass was the most challenging and most fun.  Cadets had to work in teams of two, one positioned at each end of the tunnel, both with handie-talkies, HTs, as their primary means of communication.  Their assignment was to make an entry to search for the victim, a manikin, inside.  Once found, the two would have to talk to one another, through their masks, and determine what method of rescue and which end of the tunnel to exit with that victim.  In addition, the primary crew member inside was required to communicate all conditions and actions to the “Tunnel Group Sup” positioned on the outside.  The drill made for great learning and listening, as cadets outside of the tunnel stood quietly listening to the radio traffic and voices of the crews inside getting worked.  And that they did.

Peers challenging peers made for great interactive learning.  Cadets not in rotation were allowed to hide the manikins in the tunnel as the crew in rotation stood outside.  Once the victims were hidden, a group briefing was conducted to discuss search and rescue expectations of the crew about to enter.  As the rotations and the morning progressed, confidence increased.  Cadets began to hide manikins in difficult spots within the tunnel, sometimes multiple manikins simultaneously and other times no manikins at all.  Search teams would rescue an adult victim only to exit the tunnel and be asked where the child was.  At the end of one scenario, the group stood listening to “One, two, three…(sliding movement coming from inside the tunnel)…one, two, three”, the tunnel canvas cover opens, Wilcox and Morris exit dragging the adult victim to safety only to find Duda saying, “Where’s my son?...Where’s my son?”  A trip back into the tunnel lands Morris with the rescue of the toddler still down inside, heroic job gentlemen.  A great day of team and confidence building while breathing bottled air, working in the dark, trying to make out muffled words coming from your crew members mask, talking over the radio through the mask and listening to every radio transmission outside the tunnel to monitor the search team’s progress. 

Controlling breathing while working on air is a life safety part of firefighter training.  An entry level drill to test the cadet’s ability to function while on air was given in between tunnel rotations.  The six floor tower was the prop of focus.  Company assignments were to don full structural personal protective equipment, PPE, to include SCBA and travel as a group to the roof of the tower.  Crews were instructed to carry one spare SCBA bottle per person, stay together throughout the assignment, monitor air supplies and control breathing.  Any crew member with low air sounding alarms was to exit the tower immediately with a supporting crew member.  To celebrate a day’s job well done, the Battalion’s first group photo was taken and is displayed as the front photo for this blog.

Wednesday’s drill rotation was set for Hose, Ladders and Electrical.  Hose continued with forward and reverse hose lay deployment.  Ladders continued with progress in climbing ability and raising techniques and Electrical introduced cadets to generators, power tools and electrical cord types.  SCBA Confidence had the cadets in structural PPE all day.  As a drill dress down, Ladders was the only rotation requiring structural clothing.

Hose lay deployment stations require cadets to function in four different roles as members of an engine company crew, Officer, Engineer, Nozzle member and Hydrant member.  Mastering all of the tasks of these assignments requires continuous practice.  Ten days of hose practice is provided to allow cadets time to prepare for performance finals.  Here’s a breakdown of one of Delta Company’s reverse lay evolutions.  Four cadets position themselves on the engine, Officer Dyer, Engineer Duda, Nozzle Member Kelly and Hydrant Member Clark.  The engine arrives on scene, Dyer orders, “Pull 250’ of 2 ½ to the fire!” Kelly repeats the order, steps off the engine and begins pulling the hose as instructed.  Clark steps off the engine to give Kelly a hand.  Duda removes an appliance, called a gated wye, from the rear compartment of the engine, places it on the ground and returns to engine.  Kelly and Clark complete the 250’ hose pull.  Clark returns to the engine. Kelly uncouples the hose from its hose bed.  Dyer steps in to pull the 4” supply hose, foots it and yells “Take Off!”  The engine drives forward.  Dyer and Kelly make the hose connections to the gated wye, run to the nozzle and call, “Water!”  Duda works on making the connection from the engine pump panel to the hydrant, “Water coming!” Clark breaks the 4” hose coupling at the engine tailboard and connects it to the pump discharge outlet.  Once connected, he makes contact with Duda for instructions, “Go fight fire.”  Clark joins his crew at the nozzle and the evolution ends, practice, practice, practice.

Cadet ladder skill level continues to increase.  Ladder placing competitions have started, a greater motivator for mastering techniques.  Raising techniques, climbing and locking off and climbing and working with tools were practiced for the bulk of the drill.  When the lesson was completed, raising races began.  Each team consisted of two cadets.  The rules and goals of the exercise were to safely and rapidly raise and place a 24’ extension ladder to the building.  All moves are monitored with unsafe moves causing an immediate stop and elimination from the round.  Numerous teams were successful, many of them completing all moves safely within twenty to thirty seconds.

Electrical is a work station geared to introduce cadets to electrical power tools.  The station starts off with introduction to power cord types, circuit breakers and ground fault circuit interrupters, GFCIs.  As the session moves forward, operating generators, flood lights, blowers and saws were brought in.  Crews were divided into three and rotated through two separate saw station and one on generator, scene lighting and blower station.  Cadets were shown how to determine the correct power cord required for a given tool and set that cord for work to ensure it wouldn’t be inadvertently unplugged.  They used chop saws, skill saws, reciprocating saws and were taught how to start an apparatus onboard generator and put 500 watt portable scene lighting and blowers into service, great electrical lessons which will pay dividends later when the group builds their Battalion project.

Thursday was an eye opener for just about every cadet, as the demands for strength and tool technique increased.  The morning started off with an officers briefing to discuss logistical plans and leadership transitions for the Battalion.  A standard Thursday work out, four mile formation run, followed.  During the run, the group was dispatched to a call, “Structure fire, 1160 Academy Way, cross of Bowline.  Respond on Channel One.”  Everyone did a speedy job, racing to their turnouts and dressing accordingly.  A record turnout time of 1:53 from the time of dispatch was achieved.  Radio listening skills improved significantly with all crews able to identify the correct address, cross street and channel to respond on, great job.

Hose, Ladders and Heavy was the drill set for the day.  Hose lay skills are improving on a daily basis, with competence levels strong enough for competitions to be added into the mix.  Body acclimation to structural clothing is also improving.  As a result, attire demands were increased to require cadets to perform the hose lays while wearing turnouts, a basic standard in all fire departments.  Heavy is a drill station introducing the concept of using a variety of tools for moving and lifting heavy objects.  Concrete slabs and blocks are used.  Tools made available to the cadets to move these objects consisted of long pry bars, cribbing and wedges, rolling bars, air bags and pressure regulators, and hydraulic bottle and floor jacks. 

The Ladder station gave the cadets their greatest challenge thus far.  This was the day the group was introduced to carrying, placing, raising, lowering and grounding 24’ extension ladders on their own.  Manipulating these ladders as a one person operation is common practice and will be become a testing standard Fall 2015 to meet new State Fire Training Firefighter I Certification Testing Standards.  The ladders are cumbersome, slightly heavy and difficult to maneuver to the newcomer.  Successful placement takes practice in technique and confidence when throwing.

More than half the Battalion struggled with their first rounds of the one person method of raising.  As the day progressed, a small handful of cadets raised the ladders confidently with the bulk of the group requiring significantly more practice.  Four days will be allotted to practicing the one person raise technique.  A few ladders hit the ground, with multiple needing repairs and one pulled completely from service.  It is definitely an acquired skill.  The group performed well overall during their initial exposure to this technique.  Words of encouragement were continually spoken as the cadets worked to maintain a confident approach.  Balancing, gravity, leg positioning, halyard handling and elbow and arm placement all play major roles in safe raising and lowering techniques.  

Thursday afternoon marked a significant event for this academy.  For decades, live propane fire and high angle rope rescue systems training have occurred.  An Advisory Committee made up of area fire department chiefs, county agency representatives, Fire Tech faculty and student body representatives, meets every semester to discuss fire science education and training.  Firefighter I curriculum compliance was a topic for discussion and decision making in Thursday’s meeting.  To comply with new firefighter training standards set by the State, the academy must provide live interior structural firefighting beginning Fall 2015.  Training with propane live fires and advanced rope rescue systems training will be discontinued at the end of this semester to make room for the hours necessary for live interior structural fire training.  A bitter sweet decision as the academy moves forward to meet accreditation requirements.  Bottom line, this will be the last Battalion receiving Rope Rescue Systems 1 certifications and live flammable gases training, Battalion 43, the last through the Propane Tree.

Friday began with an Officer’s briefing and an introduction to new company officers. Alpha Company Officer Robles, Bravo Company Officer Hampton, Charlie Company Officer Wagner and Delta Company Officer Hobbs will lead the Battalion for the next period.  Each officer will have assistants named 2s and a mentor named 3s, Cadet Sisk as Alpha 2, Cadet James Bravo 2, Cadet Berger Charlie 2 and Cadet Duda as Delta 2.  The first round of officer will act as mentors, with Cadet Otani as Alpha 3, Cadet Cervantes Bravo 3, Cadet Mulvehill Charlie 3 and Cadet Lee as Delta 3.  Drill set-up assignments were issued to the new officers strategically.  The last company to rotate through tool module drill stations is the company assigned to set it up.  This allows for smoother station break downs and helps to ensure all equipment is stowed properly at the end of the day.  Officer Robles had the most involved assignments and was in charge of setting up Tools Aloft.

Tools Aloft is a hoisting station for tools.  It’s common practice to use drop bags, thrown down from an above floor, to secure tools for hoisting operations.  The bags contain about 50’-75’ of utility rope and are clipped to the firefighter’s turnouts.  The action requires solid knot tying ability and at least two persons, one at the ground level to tie the tool off and the other at the desired floor to hoist the tool up.  A variety of tools can be hoisted aloft, long handled tools such as pike poles or rubbish hooks, chain saws, dry or charged hose lines, axes and ladders to name a few.  Cadets will utilize these skills in a Combined Operations drill scheduled later.

One person 24’ extension ladder operations continued to challenge cadets.  Many of them acquiring a better feel for the weight distribution and added technique.  A few troubles arose as afternoon winds picked up.  Ultimately crews were relocated to props containing leeward walls as a focal point, providing the cover cadets needed.  Focusing on ladder control is one thing, applying that focus in moderate wind conditions is too much of another. 

Over at Hose, Charlie and Delta companies were respectfully trash talking each other as they prepared for the first elimination round of hose lay competitions.  Fun stuff as each group formulated their plans for finishing first.  Each group had an assigned instructor to help them improve their chances of winning.  On one side of the mat stood Charlie with Cadets Mulvehill, Roberto, Wagner and Wilcox and the other side, Delta with Cadets Duda, Lee, Moore and Valenzuela.  For a little fun, here’s my best play by play announcing as the races progressed.

“Welcome to the first round of hose lay play offs.  This round will determine which company moves forward to the Super Hose Bowl,” (I’m grinning as I type).  “Companies Charlie and Delta will be competing.  And as I can see, each team is huddled with their instructor mentor planning their win strategy.  The cadets have taken their spots on the engines.  The engine motors have started.  The Official drops his arms to start the race. Everyone goes to work, Moore is first to the compartment, he grabs the gated wye and sets it on the ground, Duda and Wilcox at the engine tailboards, grabbing the nozzles and running side by side to place the it on the designated spot, both Valenzuela and Roberto grasping couplings and sprinting to towards the nozzle. Wagner and Lee simultaneously removing ladders from the engines, Duda and Wilcox in full competitive sprints with hose in hand, the peanut gallery roars!, Mulvehill set his wye and runs toward the hydrant.  At this point this race is too close to call!  The two sides look and move like mirrored images, Holy cow!  Duda and Wilcox run back to their engines, they pull more hose. They foot and break the couplings in record speed simultaneously.  Lee and Wagner stand by ready to pull the 4” discharge supply to the wye.  Valenzuela and Roberto sprint back to their spots on the engine. Duda is the first to throw the unused coupling back in the hose bed.  Lee jumps on the tailboard to grab the 4”.  Delta is inching ahead.  Duda positions the 2 ½. Lee and Wilcox run to the same designated spot.  Wagner jumps up and grabs the 4”.  Cheering voices yelling “Go!, Go!, Go!, Go!,” Lee foots the hose and yells “Take Off!”  Wagner yells the same.  The engines drive off with Delta now feet ahead.  Charlie makes up time.  Both teams make the wye connection simultaneously.  Valenzuela beats Roberto to the tailboard, Delta moves into the lead again.  Roberto pulls the 4”, Valenzuela now disconnecting his line and carrying it to the discharge panel.  Duda and Wilcox arrive at the nozzle in unison.  Man this close!  Lee and Wagner stretch the 2 ½ off the wye.  Moore and Mulvehill roll out their bypasses and make the hydrant connections.  Lee’s hose gets tangled!  He races to fix it.  Wagner catches up to Wilcox, Charlie yells “Water!” Mulvehill acknowledges the order, “Water coming”.  Lee arrives at the nozzle, Delta yells “Water!”  Moore returns the command, “Water coming!”  Roberto breaks his 4” coupling and tosses it back into the bed and carries the working end to the discharge side of the engine.  Valenzuela makes his connection, runs around the front of the engine, tells Moore, “4” hose connected”, Moore…”Go fight fire!” Valenzuela now in a full sprint, Roberto’s right behind him.  They run along the hose lay, racing to catch up with their crews at the nozzle, both with faces of sheer determination.  Valenzuela arrives first!.  Delta takes it!  What a race folks!  What a race!  Until next time, thanks for reading our blogs and supporting our/your cadets.  Be safe”

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 43

Week 2    Hose Loads, Rolls, & Lays, Ladders, SCBA, Pry

Week 2 was the Battalion’s first official week of drill rotations.  Over the next four days, the group will learn the value of time management, teamwork, delegation of duties and listening skills.

Tuesday’s Officer’s briefing started with the realignment of crews to adjust for the recent hiring of cadets from Battalion 43’s original roster.  Proudly over the past weeks four of them have been appointed as Firefighter Trainees or Fire Control Workers for Los Angeles City and Ventura County Fire Departments, congratulations Cadets Coughlin, Fisher, Fourtner and Phelps. The Battalion now consists of thirty-six members, divided into four companies containing nine cadets each.

Orders of the Day are written instructions identifying the details of every company’s daily assignments.  Officers were given time to read and process the information contained on the document before discussion was initiated. This day’s order had the Battalion start physical fitness by 0715, followed by SCBA bottle changes at 0800, hygiene by 0830, a report time of 0900 for Hose Loads and Rolls training on the mat and afternoon rotations of SCBA training and end of day roof prop rebuild.

Their three mile formation run began at 0715.  Cadence could be heard from a distance as the group made their way along academy roads in between props.  Radio management is now the norm with two officers per company constantly monitoring traffic on predesignated channels.  At the beginning of the third mile, the Battalion was dispatched to a structure fire.  The group maintained their formation during their initial efforts to respond to the mat and don structure gear.  However they were quickly instructed to break the formation and sprint to their gear to minimize turnout times, the amount of time allowed to prepare for a given call.  A short briefing with officers and their predesignated engineers after the dispatch drill identified the need for fine tuning radio listening skills so location and cross streets can be better determined.  These skills will build as the semester moves forward.

Hose loads and rolls began at 0900.  The group was divided into two and separated a distance apart, with each group covering basic loading methods to ensure hose sections pay out smoothly when in use.  The sections are connected by lighter weight metal couplings and can be easily snagged on hose compartment construction.  Dutchman is a term given to a hose folding method which allows these couplings to pass freely as they are deployed.  Crews worked to master this technique, loading approximately five to six hundred feet of large diameter supply line in its designated fire engine hose bed. 

After lunch companies were set to rotate between two assignments, SCBA donning and familiarization and Roof Prop preparation for labor intensive drill stations we call Strike and Pry.  The pre-build for these stations is significant and planned days before the event.  The afternoon started off with Company Alpha pre-building from 1300-1400 hours.  A misunderstanding of expectations forced the early return of the company, but confusion was quickly resolved and rotations turned productive.  The plan was to have one company prepping the prop while the other three companies worked with SCBAs.  Rotations were set at the top of the hour with Officers coordinating relief efforts over their HTs

Prop preparation for Strike and Pry consists of sheeting the underside of the roof prop for Pry and the top of an adjacent flat area prop for Strike.  Crews worked together pre-build Pry first by securing OSB to the ceiling and upper wall areas.  This sheeting would serve as the focus for overhead and wall axe work performed during the drill.  They also hand cut and built simulated door jambs which would be attached to the prop’s opposing walls and serve as the prying component of the drill station.

To prep for Strike, they nailed in OSB sheeting on the flat area prop.  This early build session offered beginning lessons in basic hand tool use for construction.  This will pay dividends later because every prop the Battalion cuts, strikes, prys or rips into must be rebuilt at the end of that day.  Knowing the difference between 8 and 16 duplex and sinker nails, how to properly drive that nail using a hammer and cut wood using a variety of saws makes quick work during rebuild periods.

SCBA training started on the mat.  Structured practice of having cadets don and control bottle air pressure loss from their mask mounted regulators was completed and followed by timed donning practice.  So far, the quickest don time overall sits at just over 1:30. Continued practice will chip away at that measurement until a successful time of 100% in 1:00.  After a handful of donning rounds the group was moved to the Fire Tech Simulation Room, for the second part of SCBA familiarization.

The Sim Room is a classroom outfitted with nineteen fully loaded and internet capable computers. The units are housed in desktop work stations large enough to accommodate two students studying together simultaneously.  The afternoon assignment was for each squad to research the functional components of an SCBA assembly, document their findings then create a training video containing the research just identified.  Each video was to be narrated by a squad member while another acted as the displayer or wearer of the assembly.  Video duration limits were set at five minutes and were to contain a short and accurate explanation of each component function.  Finished products would be played over the projection screen in the academy classroom to the entire Battalion

The Officer’s briefing on Wednesday was concise, as it was the first drill day and a considerable amount of work had to be accomplished prior to the 0900 start time.  Each company had a job to do once their two circuit rotation workout was complete.  Alpha Company was charged with placing seven (14’) ladders in an area we call Ladder Land, Bravo had ice and water, the Rehab station set up, Delta was to place canopies for shade and position dry hydrants for Hose Lay stations and Charlie to set up a drill station we call, Toolbox.  Charlie’s assignment was the most involved, requiring Company Officer Mulvehill and his crew to work closely with a Ventura County Fire Captain instructor/mentor to position tools and props accordingly.  With all set up complete, the group ran off for a short cold shower to prepare for a busy day of drill ground interaction and performance.

A typical drill day is set so companies rotate through four different stations throughout the day, with morning rotations beginning at 0900 and afternoon sessions at 1300.  Companies will rotate through stations requiring similar personal protective equipment or positioned in close proximity consecutively to keep transfer times down.  This day for instance, had Alpha and Charlie rotating through hose lays in the morning and ladders and toolbox during the afternoon.  All rotation orders are listed on the Orders of the Day.  Here’s a snapshot.

                        F. Lay            R. Lay            Ladders                  Toolbox

Alpha             0900            1040                1440                        1300

Charlie           1040               0900               1300                          1440

Bravo             1300              1440                 0900                        1040

Delta               1440               1300                1040                          0900

 Companies rotating through Ladders and Pry were instructed to wear turnout pants and boots over their station pant, a brush coat, helmet, safety glasses and utility gloves.  Crews moving through Hose Lays wore station pant and boot, academy t-shirt, helmet, gloves and safety glasses.

At Forward Hose Lays, Cadet Denton sets the bar as he steps towards the engine tailboard, clears the hose fold, sets up the 4-way valve appliance attached, moves the hose fold aside for easy carrying, places the hydrant wrench harness over his shoulder, carries the valve and hose away from the engine’s tailboard, then walks toward and around the hydrant, safely positions himself and yells “TAKE OFF!”  As the engine drives off, Denton makes the hydrant connection like a pro.  Actions such as this were repeated all day as cadets attempted to embed the moves into their muscle memory.  Each cadet will ultimately be held accountable to perform four separate assignments during this particular hose lay operation.

Over in Ladder Land, crews learned the feel and practiced the techniques of raising and lowering 14’ roof ladders.  A series of commands are voiced during the skill to reinforce learning and communicate to others in close proximity of intended actions.  The length of these long, shoulder loaded tools is enough to injure anyone within the over swing zone as the ladder is carried around.  Raising techniques are simple for the roof ladder because there are no moving parts.  However, handling the 14’ long tool takes skill as one must be to set the spurs of one end at the objective on the ground then position the ladder upright and safely lean it toward the building. 

Toolbox is a drill station intended to introduce cadets to basic hand tools.  Bolt cutters of various sizes, wire cutters of various types, hand saws for cutting metal or wood and webbing for securing or pulling a given object are all utilized.  Cadets rotated through mini stations cutting chain, chain-link fence, rebar and wood.  Two scenarios were given challenging crews to problem solve as they worked together to free a victim with his head stuck between metal bars of a wrought iron bar window cover, then rescue a downed construction worker who has been impaled with falling rebar, both real issues from historical emergency incidents.

Drill stations are scheduled to end at 1600 hours.  Tool stations run slightly longer to allow rotating cadets the opportunity to finish the tool skill rotation.  At the end of each drill day, the last company working a given station breaks down that station and stows the equipment appropriately.  As crews complete their breakdown assignments, they are instructed to report to the scheduled tool station to assist with its teardown.  The end of drill day periods are also used to prepare props for drills scheduled within the next one to three days.  As mentioned earlier, companies have been working to prepare the roof prop for an axe drill we call Pry.  Once the Toolbox station breakdown was complete, the Battalion moved to the roof prop to finish that pre-build assignment.

End of day meetings are usually conducted in the academy classroom.  The session is dubbed, Summary and intended to provide an arena for the group to discuss the actions of a given day.  Cadets are prompted to speak of how they approached and accomplished the drill tasks they were given. Question and answer periods follow, with a good number of questions being redirected to the group for answers, cadets learning from and teaching one another produces phenomenal results both in the classroom and on the drill ground.  The consensus of drill day one, AWESOME!

Knot tying and the use ropes for rescue is a standard in the fire service, every firefighter is expected to tie a series of knots and follow up with demonstrations of how particular knots are put into service for a variety of situations.  The list of basic knots is lengthy containing eighteen different ties, each with a time tying limit of thirty seconds.  The Battalion would be introduced to this list Thursday morning.

Colors were raised at 0645. Shortly after, Officers gathered for their morning briefing to review the day’s orders, Rope Orientation in the morning, SCBA training in the afternoon and an end of day Block Exam.  Cadets were instructed to ensure their crews possessed the required equipment prior to the beginning of their morning three mile formation run.

Rope Orientation began in the classroom at 0900 with a thirty minute session covering rope awareness, then moved to a prop a short distance away for tying practice. The Knot Rack is a prop consisting of two rows of metal horizontal poles, waist high with upright posts attached.  The prop serves as a useful anchor for group practice when knot tying.  Once the Battalion arrived to the area, they were divided between the two sides of anchors with each cadet facing an upright post. 

The tying focus was to move through the eighteen knots having each cadet first watch and then perform each tie.  A handful of instructors were onsite to assist cadets with proper tying techniques.  A few of the knots are extremely simple and learned quickly, others more involved requiring ample practice. Because of this, knot tying is introduced early in the academy to allow plenty of time for independent tying practice.  Structured group practices will begin in week four with sessions scheduled periodically until the official rope rescue systems courses begin.

To help cadets progress with their knot knowledge and tying ability, the names of knots will be listed below.  After reading this, if you have cadets you are following, ask them how they are doing with their tying techniques.  This makes for great conversation and hopefully spurs an impromptu performance of knot tying mastery.  Upon completion of the rope components of the academy, each cadet should be able to explain the function of and tie an overhand stopper, overhand bend, a becket bend, figure eight on a bight, figure follow through, an inline figure eight (both directions), a figure eight stopper, figure eight bend, clove hitch with a safety, half hitch, butterfly knot, double overhand bend, bowline with a safety, bowling on a bight, an inline bowline with a safety, a square knot bend with a safety and two harnesses, one seat and one chest.  They’re going to be tied up for a while.

After lunch, the Battalion was to have all structural gear placed in formation on the mat for structured donning practice. One round of warm up practice started the SCBA familiarization session off.  Once complete, the fully donned battalion moved to a shaded area north of the apparatus bay.  Four stations were created for the afternoon session, each offering a different style of donning.  Two stations had fire engines set up for SCBA donning from an engine compartment, built in racks along the north wall were set up for over the head donning from a standing position on a rack and a ground area set for over the head donning from a kneeling position.  Each company rotated through each area, ensuring all members were able to don with each style or method.  Times and technique are continuing to improve.

The first block exam was administered at 1600 hours in the academy classroom.  Normally when the Battalion finishes at the end of a day, they are released formally upon the command of Dismissed!  However with the exam standing in the path of a structured release, the group was advised to secure colors with the first four cadets finishing the exam while the remainder of cadets quietly filtered out of the classroom in pairs to secure gear and equipment and academy inventory storage locations.  Once all tasks were completed departing from academy grounds would be approved.  The last cadet submitted their exam at 1715, another day behind them.

The week ended with a labor intensive drill day, a four station rotation of Forward Hose Lay, Reverse Hose Lay, Ladders and Pry.  Drill day set up and planning was the focus of the morning’s briefing.  The day would run slightly different to accommodate the scheduled Certified Physical Abilities Test, CPAT.  CPAT is an exercise completion requirement countless fire agencies require during an application process.  There are only four locations throughout the state of California that offer this test, with Oxnard College Fire Technology proudly one of them.  CPAT stations are set up on the mat where the Battalion would normally have gear placed in formation and perform tasks for Reverse Hose Lays.  As a result, the Reverse Lay set up was moved to a road just east of the CPAT area with gear being placed in formation on the asphalt south of the Tower.

Drill attire was also slightly different for this day.  Structural turnouts are worn on the fire ground during incidents.  A firefighter must be acclimated to the heat stress resulting from working while wearing protective clothing.  To assist with this body acclimation process, cadets are required to wear an increasing amount of gear during training until the cadet is used to performing in full structural turnouts for continuous periods.  Cadet rehab, hydration and fitness levels really come into play here.  Constant monitoring is conducted throughout drill sessions and the day.  Instructors are given approval to pull a cadet who appears worked, but chooses to stay quiet, from the rotation so that cadet can be rehabbed, rehydrated and reenergized for remaining rotations.  This would be the first day of full turnouts for two consecutive periods (one with SCBA) of physically demanding drill stations, Ladders and Pry.  Rotations had Bravo, Delta through Ladders and Pry in the morning and Alpha, Charlie in the afternoon.

Ladder instruction and practice is given in increments.  Placing 14’ roof ladders is the simplest of tasks.  This session would introduce the cadets to 24’ extension ladders.  These ladders are heavier, have more parts and require more strength and technique to raise and lower.  To start the crews off easier, two person raising and lowering methods are covered first.  Teams would rotate through the assignment while acting either as the member at the tip or the base of the ladder.  The objective was to call out all commands while communicating with one another to properly place the fully extended ladder to the building.  To keep the work area safe, three to four teams work simultaneously while the remaining company members practice placing 14’ roof ladders at a short distance away.  The Company Officer set the crew’s rotation so all members have chance to perform all required tasks.

Up at the roof prop, crews were performing hand tool appreciation drills.  Pry is meant to build confidence with axe, ram bar, sledge, haligan, pike pole and rubbish hook use.  Cadets are taught how to properly swing an axe.  Each is given an objective to cut through and across a 4’ section of ceiling, then down a 2’ section of wall.  This takes shoulder work and pushed a number of cadets to their limits.  Another drill objective is to the teach how to force a door jamb using an axe and a haligan or sledge.  Crews practiced positioning the haligan in the jamb then calling “Strike!” until the team could pry the jamb away from its attachment. The last drill tasks were to safely break simulated glass at ground levels using an axe or above floors using long handled tools, common fire ground assignments and a solid day of productive hand tool time.

Now the clean-up phase, once all companies completed their given station breakdowns they were to report to the roof prop for the work of recycling damaged wood accumulated from Pry operations.  Charlie Company was held back to complete apparatus maintenance of cleaning engines and washing the ambulance and utility truck.  Thirty-six cadets can make quick work of large jobs, finishing the clean-up and washing in record time.  At summary, the group was polled for opinion and overall comment for the day and its demands.  Surprisingly, the group’s consensus was to push the demand higher and require a Pry work component to be completed while fully donned and breathing air from their SCBA.  I like it, a group willing to get worked! 

Battalion 43, your support of one another is growing and relationships are beginning to form.  Continue with this productive behavior.  Marked improvement in overall skill has been made note of by multiple cadre members.  Great job!  The regiment of the next couple of weeks will be tight as eight of the next ten academy days are packed with drills.  Stand by one another and assist as needed to bring your companies up together.  Strong performers are already recognized, utilize them to strengthen the performance of your crew members.  Stay the course.

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 43

Week 1 Cadet Orientation, Intro to Ground Ladders, SCBA Donning & Hose

Welcome to the Academy Blog Series.  This semester the blog will follow the academy lives of Battalion 43, a group of thirty eight cadets coming from different backgrounds and levels of experience.  Readings will post every seven to ten days with topics surrounding the Battalion’s story a week at a time.

Last November during academy orientation, Cadets Pruter and Wagner were chosen to serve as the primary contacts for information dissemination.  Over the past two months these gentlemen were the Battalion liaisons, bringing attention to peer questions and working to organize the group for their day one inspection of materials.  These men did a thorough job and as a result, the Battalion as a whole met their first objective to present in unison with required materials stacked in alignment.

This semester, leadership skills were assessed immediately.  Historical practice had academy instructors confirming the presence of required materials then documenting those results on an Inventory Checklist.  To evaluate organizational ability of early leaders, inventory inspection assignments were issued to selected cadets.  As the body of the Battalion stood at attention, Cadets Otani and Phelps inspected Company Alpha, Hampton and Gelinas inspected Bravo, Wilcox and Mulvehill inventoried Charlie and Lee and Dyer examined Delta.  Each team was to submit initialed documentation upon completion.  Once inspected, cadets moved their book inventory to their designated storage shelf. 

Lockers are assigned with the purpose of keeping companies in close proximity.  This semester the locker room will be full, accommodating the men of Oxnard College’s Battalion 43 and Ventura County Fire’s Battalion 51.  There are sixty four available lockers, 43 will utilize thirty five and 51 approximately twenty, quarters will be tight.  The female locker room will be much more accommodating with only a half a dozen women utilizing a fraction of available locker space.  Cadet Cervantes called out locker assignments then instructed the group to place their designated items inside.  Upon completion, the group returned to the classroom to collect their personal safety gear and relocated to Bunker Row for turnout gear fittings.

Continuing with the evaluation of organizational skills, the same cadets assigned to inventory materials were now assigned to outfit their crews.  Each leader was instructed to break the assignment into smaller tasks and select crew members to assist.  For example, as the leaders documented sizes, the first crew assistant would issue turnout jackets while the second crew assistant issued turnout pants.  By 1100 hours, the group was positioned on the asphalt in front of the academy apparatus bay, an area we call the Mat.

Two Arcadia Fire Department Captains were onsite to guide the Battalion through their two day cadet orientation phase.  A number of topics are covered during these first two crucial days with cadet and Battalion structure as the highest priority.  As a Battalion, the group must present, move and act as one.  Teambuilding and leadership roles are critical to the early success of a group.  Movement about the grounds was first identified in the classroom, double-time, in pairs, corners at ninety degrees, covers (academy hats) worn at all times while outside unless instructed otherwise.

As the group stood on the mat, cadets were shown in detail how to place their newly issued personal protective equipment PPE, at the ready for donning.  Step by step instructions were relayed as the instructors walked and talked the cadets through each task of gear preparation.  By 1400 hours Academy Day One, Battalion 43 acted in unison by appropriately responding to commands to move, prepare their PPE for readiness and stand at parade rest in structured formation on the mat with gear displayed in tight alignment.

Raising and lowering colors is a task performed at the beginning and ending of each day.  The command to “Fallout” had the Battalion relocate from the mat to the flag pole southeast of the classroom.  Cadets were shown how to formally raise, lower and fold colors.  Instructions were also given on proper personnel movements to and from the flag pole while carrying colors and how to voice the command of raising or lowering colors to other Battalion members moving about academy grounds.  The term “Colors!” would echo and be repeated across the grounds letting all know to stop their actions, face the direction of the flag pole and stand at attention until the command of “As you were!” was relayed.

At 1500 hours, the group was instructed to change into physical training clothing and prepare for an introduction to academy circuit training and formation runs.  The group was divided into six teams for circuit training, each team setting up a given station, a tower run, manikin drag, tire drag, pull-ups, tire flip and hose drag.  Once the course was set, teams reported to their starting station, began the workout and rotated clockwise through the stations when instructed. 

The timing of rotations is determined by the team running the six story tower.  Those cadets were to don a breathing apparatus BA, harness and bottle assembly then run single file to the top of the tower twice.  Upon completion and doffing of their BA, the group would yell “Rotate!” to signal the Battalion to move to the next station.  Following the completion of an entire circuit round, the group came together for a short water and rest period, then rotated their way through the second round of training. A two mile run in formation followed circuit training.  An end of day an After Action Review AAR, was held in the academy classroom to discuss the day’s events, Academy Day One, January 12, 2015 now behind them.

Academy gates open at 0615 every morning, with cadets expected to arrive by 0630.  The group’s first unofficial uniform inspection was scheduled for 0800.  Uniform appearance, attention to grooming detail, gig lines, name tag placement, clothing wrinkles, the presence of lint, boot polishing and leather belt securing were all examined.  Once the inspection was complete, marching and facing movements were covered.  The Battalion picked up on movements quickly and marched in unison in record time, an outstanding early group performance with Cadet James acting as the Battalion Marching Officer.

After lunch, cadets reported to the classroom for detailed instruction on uniform and inspection preparation.  This session is purposefully scheduled after their first unofficial inspection with the intent of using errors identified earlier as examples of how to improve their overall appearance.  Cover labeling, collar and gig line management, shirt stays for tighter blousing, creases in pant legs and boot polishing techniques were discussed in detail to prepare the Battalion for their first formal inspection scheduled Friday at 0845.

Turnout donning sequence followed classroom discussion.  Cadets were instructed to report to the mat for instructions on how to properly dress in structural turnouts.  Directions were methodical having cadets move through each step as a group until the entire ensemble was donned.  Initial phases had cadets moving with purpose as they practiced each step.  After a few practice sessions, the rounds were timed to identify a baseline to assess progress with the first time to beat at 2:30. 

The second and last afternoon circuit training workout was set up at 1600 hours.  During this session burpees were added in between stations to improve full body strength and aerobic fitness. Two full rounds of the circuit, an organized group stretch for muscle relief and workout station breakdown finished the day off.  The Battalion was released from the mat, with all cadets encouraged to take issued PPE home for donning practice.

The Battalion’s first officers were named during Wednesday morning’s briefing.  Battalion Officer Wilcox, Alpha Company Officer Otani, Bravo Company Officer Cervantes, Charlie Company Officer Mulvehill and Delta Company Officer Lee will command the group through a heavily front loaded calendar of drills.  Acting as assistance to these leaders will be Cadet Robles as Alpha 2, Cadet Hampton as Bravo 2, Cadet Wagner as Charlie 2 and Cadet Hobbs as Delta 2.  Each of these cadets will hold the responsibility of retrieving handie-talkies, HTs every morning and communicating to one another by radio throughout each day.  The formation run was shortened to one mile to accommodate the lengthy first Officer’s briefing and a 0830 report time to the classroom for the administrative side of academy orientation.

Chief Warner welcomed the group.  She talked about the overall academy program and explained behavior and performance expectations from all cadets attending.  Logistics such as elected officers, battalion motto, certification fees and fundraising guidelines, battalion flag, plaque and graduation were all discussed.  To put assignments into motion, officer elections took place first.  A number of cadets were nominated and supported by the group, but when the count was finished Cadet Cervantes stood out as the Battalion President, Cadet Fudge as the Treasurer and Cadet Hampton as the Fundraising Events Coordinator.  Congratulations to the newly elected cabinet. 

President Cervantes was given the floor to facilitate the battalion’s motto selection.  Cadet Barragan scribed about a dozen possibilities on the white board.  “For Those Before” was voted in as the clear winner, respectful words as countless fire department personnel have experienced heartfelt line of duty losses.  The remainder of the morning covered policy, procedures, syllabus, field excursions and academy assignments.

The City of Los Angeles donated two 1990 Seagraves fire engines to the academy last semester.  These engines were delivered January 10, 2015.  Battalion 43’s afternoon assignments were to outfit both engines with tools and equipment while simultaneously outfitting themselves with the remainder of academy issued gear.  The Battalion was divided into groups, one assigned to gear issue and the others to the engines.  Everyone worked with purpose, large diameter hose was loaded on rear hose beds, smaller hose was placed in designated cross lay beds, hand tools and fittings were added to specific compartments and academy personal gear issued by squad.  Within two hours, the Battalion successfully equipped two engines and thirty seven cadets.

At 1500 hours, the group stood in formation on the mat awaiting their next assignment.  Learn by doing then learn by teaching is an instructional delivery method I strongly support.  So to start the next session off, four of the eight cadets assigned to outfit the Battalion were instructed to position themselves in front of the group and demonstrate the proper method of removing and re-installing a self-contained-breathing-apparatus, SCBA bottle to its harness assembly.  Once all questions were answered, each cadet was to repeat the action with their own SCBA.

The SCBA is one of the most important life safety pieces of equipment a firefighter will utilize and because of its value, manipulating this device with extreme competence is a must for academy success.  Once the cadets performed their own bottle change outs with the unit positioned on the ground, they were instructed to place the harness assembly on their backs and have an adjacent cadet replace the bottle as they knelt over.

Next step, turn the bottle on to allow air to move through the lines to the regulator, listen for and control any leaks or free flowing air while simultaneously controlling the motion sensing personal alarm safety system, PASS.  This took some practice.  The PASS will activate soon as the assembly is charged with pressurized air and if functioning properly, will sound loudly if the wearer remains motionless for thirty seconds. 

Alarm activation and deactivation was the focus and practiced until the sequential steps of turning the bottle on, identifying the pressure, confirming PASS activation, turning the bottle off, bleeding the system of air and properly deactivating their alarm was set into their muscle memories.  The session didn’t come quietly though.  Alarm devices sounded at random, ringing loud, resonating across the student parking lot as more control was gained.  I’m pretty sure the nearby high school teachers were wondering where all the alarms were coming from.  SCBA familiarization continued until the cadets could successfully don the unit, breathe the bottled air with a sense of comfort, then return the unit to its stowed position, tasks many of them experienced for the first time. 

The last session of the day was to practice donning academy issued structural turnouts.  With the initial lessons of performing steps methodically behind them, cadets could now focus on performing those steps for time.  A number of rounds were practiced and measured by time and the quality of cover, meaning no skin showing.  At this point, 100% of the Battalion can successfully don their personal protective clothing in 1:40, an impressive start three days in and well below the earlier measurement of 2:40.

At 0700 the next morning, Officers stood around a computer screen viewing the academy grounds as displayed by Google Earth.  Officer 2s were to lead the Battalion through the workout of the day while the primary officers were escorted about the grounds in a crew cab utility we call, 160.  Company officers were driven by each of the area props.  Identification of prop needs and supply locations were discussed for the numerous drills planned and scheduled to begin next week.  Early knowledge of the location and supply needs of a given drill will move set up periods along at a faster pace later.

Introduction to Ground Ladders started in the classroom at 0900.  The basics of ladder types, construction components, ladder commands and size selection were covered.  The session moved outside for a demonstration of how to place a 14’ roof ladder and a 24’ extension ladder safely against a building.  Cadets will soon be performing these skills both on their own and as a member of a two person team, communication and technique will become key.

During lunch Bravo Company was dispatched to a call, “Structure fire sector 104….Company Bravo respond to a structure fire at 160 Eugenia Drive, cross of Lexington. Map page 14 Edward 2, Bravo 7.  Respond on Channel 1.”  The first few members jogged their way to the mat to don their structure gear and voice their response to the fire.  Bravo Company Officer Cervantes recognized the absence of a few members and appropriately makes radio contact with them requesting they too report to the mat to don their gear and prepare for the call.  Once the drill was concluded, topics surrounding the reported address, cross street, map page number and clothing selection were discussed.  Impromptu drills of being at the ready at all times and predesignating crew assignments will be the norm throughout the semester.

Mapping, city layouts and dispatching were covered after lunch.  Cadets learned what to listen for during a typical dispatch and were shown examples of map pages and grids.  Addressing concepts were introduced on an overhead screen.  A sample wall map of the City of Ventura was displayed and used as the lesson back drop.  A short span activity was assigned with each group having to map an open road driving course a probationary firefighter would drive during a test for a firefighter driver’s license.  Once complete the group’s spokesperson would stand at the map and describe the route they planned for freeway and surface road driving, straight line backing, uphill and downhill parking, hillside driving and three point turning.

At 1445, the Battalion was positioned on the mat with gear at the ready.  The session started with the review of methodical donning and doffing of clothing and equipment, with an emphasis on controlling the mask mounted regulator and the release of bottled SCBA air to the atmosphere.  The group showed marked improvement, with each cadet gaining competence from repeated practice.  Company donning competitions followed with a number of wins going to the Alpha/Charlie side of the formation.  Bravo and Delta will have some catching up to do.  As it sits right now, Cadets Denton and Sisk hold the fastest donning times of 0.50 seconds, good job gentlemen.

Thursday ended with a classroom discussion regarding fundraising ideas and T-shirt sales.  An unscheduled visit by Battalion 42’s President and Acting Battalion Officer offered a great opportunity for members of 43 to inquire about the process.  Kat Whitby was open and shared 42’s experiences of meeting their fundraising goals, valuable information as 43 will likely need to raise approximately $11,000.00 to pay their state certification fees.

Friday morning was the Battalion’s first official inspection.  LAFD Captain Miranda was onsite to assist.  At 0900, the group stood at attention as the inspection was underway.  Other able and well qualified bodies gave an impromptu visit, offering to join in on the inspection.  As Ventura City Fire Chief Endaya and Ventura City Training Chief Hansen were introduced, cadet inspection anxiety grew.  The Battalion as a whole presented well nonetheless, standing in unison with only minor uniform errors to correct.  Situational awareness was brought to the group’s attention following the inspection because Friday was Ventura County/Ventura City Fire Academy 51’s Orientation with numerous Chiefs attending.  The grounds will soon be filled with firefighter trainees and cadets all moving with purpose.

The Introduction to Hose lesson also started in the classroom.  Water supply, hose, fittings and appliance types, hose lays and basic hose operations on the fire ground were reviewed.  One of the Seagraves engines the Battalion just put into service was parked nearby and used as an instructional aid for handling hose and fittings.  A large vinyl cover was neatly spread on the asphalt to the rear of the classroom.  A variety of hose tools, adapters, appliances, reducers, spanners, hydrant wrenches and small diameter hose lines were positioned on the cover far enough apart to step around.  Cadets were encouraged to get acquainted with the tools and equipment on display to prepare for the afternoon competitive activity.

The Fitting Bee started mid-afternoon.  The rules of the Bee were to have cadets stand in line by Squad.  Each cadet would be asked a question related to the equipment placed on display.  An instructor would pick up a piece of equipment, show it to the group while asking the cadet in turn what it is.  The cadet in question would state their name then answer the given question.  A correct answer won a trip to the back of the Squad line.  Incorrect answers were invitations to the peanut gallery.  The last two cadets standing would have a run off.

The game started easy with Squad 1being asked, “Squad One, what is today’s date?”……”Cadet Otani, one, sixteen, two thousand fifteen.”  His correct answer sent him to the back of the line.  “Squad Two, what is this called?”….”Cadet Vasquez, that is a…(deep sigh)…two and a half inch to one and a half inch reducer with rocker lugs.”  Correct, Cadet Vasquez also moves to the back of the line.  The questions kept coming, forcing cadets to put their best recall efforts on the line.  As the game progressed, the peanut gallery filled.  Questions continually answered incorrectly were sent to that gallery.  “Peanut gallery, what is AFFF?”…voices in unison, “Aqueous Film Forming Foam.”  Ultimately Cadets Guy and Wagner were the last standing. 

The run off first had the peanut gallery line up behind the cadet they thought would prevail, even support.  Cadets Guy and Wagner were handed traffic cones and instructed to run off their vision of 50’ and place the cone down.  A 50’ section of hose was stretched to its length and compared to the cadet’s measured cone placement.  Guy wins, receiving the Master Splinter Award!  As a tribute, the Battalion drops for twenty push-ups.  The Hose written exam was given afterward with five cadets scoring 30 of 32 correctly.  Cadets Lee, Barragan, Fudge, Guy and James were also given Master Splinter Awards, a great ending to an extremely productive first week.

43, your greatest chances of success will come by building your team and supporting your leaders.  Academy week ones are notoriously difficult as roughly forty individuals must find each other and come together as one.  You’re moving in the right direction and making progress.  Stay the course and unify as a rapid moving full schedule is within a few days reach.

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 16   Wildland Fire Training

Weekend weather watch prompted a change in Wildland Field Exercise plans for the training scheduled at Cal State University Channel Islands. Two days were originally penned in for Tuesday and Wednesday. However, weather forecasts identifying a 100% chance of rain forced a jump in plans. Captain Bouska made the necessary cadre contacts while I communicated with Battalion Officer Minicucci and Battalion President Whitby. On a fly and a true punt, everything came together in the eleventh hour. Minicucci and Whitby were able to get the word out, accomplishing a considerable amount of organizing prior to Monday morning's early arrival.

And early it was, cadets began to arrive at 0600. A long checklist of tasks was accomplished in a fast couple of hours, with all efforts working towards a 0800 departure in strike team fashion. Apparatus prep and equipment loading started things off. Engine 38's water tank had to be filled, 1,800 feet of brush hose had to be rolled, packed and appropriately loaded, additional fittings and appliances placed in apparatus compartments, hand tools for fire line construction were loaded along with cadet rehab supplies. The travel order was determined the night before allowing for the prompt positioning of vehicles.  Once the transporting vehicles were in position and loaded a driver and officer’s briefing was conducted. Mapping, communication methods during travel, medical plan in the event of a traffic accident enroute, vehicle travel position and the make and model of the last car were noted. Acting Battalion Officer Gratz conducted a radio check on channel one, confirmed his personnel accountability and off we drove, departing only ten minutes behind schedule at 0810. Great job 42 for pulling it all together.

We were headed to a model airplane field strip located on a curvy dirt road named Old Dairy Road. The area has open parking, portable restrooms and great hillsides to train on. The Battalion pulled in and parked in a chevron pattern, donned their brush gear and prepared for the morning briefing.  Cadet safety and the possibility of injury or fatigue were discussed and rehab identified.  Crew rotation through the day’s lessons would run in the same manner as standard drill days on academy grounds, four stations, fire shelter deployment, progressive hose lays, simple hose lays and fire line construction, each with ninety minute durations.

The shelter deployment station served more as a review with a greater focus on tool use for clearing a safe working area.  The surrounding vegetation was light but still offered a challenge when scrapping down to the dirt.  On the command to deploy, crews had to clear their area, set up their shelter and be prepared to hold their position for the duration as the life-threatening situation passed.  Progressive hose lays forced cadets up a moderate slope.  Crews worked together to prepare the first sections of hose for the lay.  A call for water, a nozzle adjustment and a spray pattern wetting the area at the base of the fire line and up the hill they hiked.  The same techniques learned in week 15 were utilized.  Each crew advanced the charged hose line up hill, prepped new hose sections to be attached, clamped the wet line then attached the dry.  Another call for water, a hose clamp released, water sprayed and farther uphill they advanced, progressively hose laying 600’-800’ of line.

The simple hose lay station had cadets working individually utilizing a concept similar to progressive lays.  With the simple lay, each cadet had to perform all tasks on their own.  An area on the hillside with the softest incline was selected for practice.  Unlike the name, the assignment is no simple lay.  Cadets stood on the dirt road at the base of the hill, hose pack donned.  They removed the first section of hose, rolled it out, attached the nozzle then called for water.  Once the nozzle was adjusted, water was sprayed in a circular pattern up the incline.  When the cadet arrived to the point of a fully stretched line, the second section of hose was rolled out downhill, charged line clamped, new line attached and another 100’ advanced.  The work didn’t finish at deploying.  Once the hose line was advanced to the objective, the cadet had to pick all 200’ of that hose during the return to the engine parked on the road, a distance away.

At the fire line construction station, cadets learned the sequence of tool use in a line of workers cutting vegetation and scraping down to dirt level along a fire’s edge.  Line construction around the fire’s edge separates flames from unburned material and helps to contain a given fire in its area.  On many occasion however, winds, radiant heat and blowing embers push the fire across the line and spot fires ignite.  The crews worked together to cut their line up slope, another labor intensive drill station.

The rotations continued throughout the day with lunch onsite and an end of day After Action Review of operations.  The return trip was conducted in the travel manner as the morning.  Upon arrival to the academy, drivers pulled their vehicles to bunker row, unloaded their brush gear then reported to the app bay mat for a short briefing identifying company clean up assignments.  The Battalion made quick work of what needed to be accomplished prior to release and was dismissed by Acting Battalion Officer Gratz, from the apparatus bay mat.

At 0700 the next morning, Officers talked strategy of how they were to continue with academy demobilization.  The demobe assignments for this day was to have Company Officer Hamilton in charge of stripping the remaining tools and equipment from Engine 1’s compartments, Company Officer’s Brinkman and Villavicenio responsible for detailing their crew’s assigned engines, with Company Officer Gullo accountable to confine equipment removed earlier from Engine 4 to a smaller footprint on the apparatus floor.  When all crews were finished, the Battalion was to divide and detail Squad 1 and Engine 9.  E9 was slated to be on display at graduation and was in need of a thorough wipe down.

The last viewing of the grad movie started the classroom session.  The Wildland focus of the day would have the cadets indoors all day, timely because it rained heavily all day.  The material to be covered had the group discussing methods of maintaining situational awareness while performing suppression duties on a brush fire.  S-133, Look Up, Look Down, Look Around was the name of the course covered, seemingly simple name or concept.  However, fire line conditions can move out of control in an instant.  Remaining keenly aware of all of your surroundings when you out there helps you make sound decisions as you react to rapidly changing conditions.

Another rainy day schedule was planned for Wednesday.  The morning’s demobe assignment had the Battalion come together in the classroom at 0700.  With Chief Warner present, manila envelopes were distributed to its rightful cadet.  The packs contained all of the original certifications each cadet had been awarded throughout the semester.  Every cadet was assigned to inventory their envelope and confirm all certifications were present.  A proud moment for the group as they held the certs they worked so hard to obtain over the past 15 weeks.  Once completed, each cadet returned the envelope with initialed documentation as a follow up.  As paperwork was submitted, each cadet was able to view their final academy grade.

After documentation duties were complete, cadets were asked to retrieve and inspect their SCBA harnesses.  These units were used considerably throughout the semester and now needed to be assessed for the readiness of the next battalion.  Since all structural firefighting lessons were now complete, the harnesses, upon inspection could also be returned to the academy inventory.  Next up was helmet, book storage and locker clean out, reality of academy completion setting in deeper, as each cadet emptied their lockers and cubby storage spots in the classroom.  Cadets quietly sounded with disappointments as they removed their names from their helmets, bitter sweet.

A large floor model sand table was reserved in a classroom a short distance away for Wednesday’s rainy day exercises.  The lessons-incidents would involve structure protection during brush fires in the wildland urban interface, WUI.  Cadets surrounded the table, some sitting on their helmets, others kneeling comfortably with their elbows resting on the side wall supports.  A number of HTs were utilized with all traffic to be transmitted over channel one.  The sand was molded into a community with a dozen residences placed in clusters throughout the hills.  The fire was yarned off east of the newly shaped community.  Addresses were identified and assigned to model homes, coinciding with overhead projected photos, a pretty cool set up.

The Ridge Fire was burning its way towards the community.  Crews were assigned to triage the structures to determine what protection, if any, the houses would need to withstand the passing fire.  If the decision was made to stay at a given property to prep it or protect it, crews needed to establish LCES and describe what actions they were to take.  Communications were restricted to radio contact during this phase.  Transmissions lasted for a couple of hours.  Below are examples of a three different engine company leaders, Cadet Hill on Engine 3, Cadet Smith on Engine 8 and Charlie Company Officer Gullo on Engine 5.

Foxtrot, Engine 3……Engine 3 go ahead……Foxtrot I posted a lookout at the top of the ridge up by 16 Gann to see if the fire is advancing closer to the river……Copy, you have a lookout established at 16 Gann, what’s the call sign for that lookout?......His ID will be Gann Lookout…..Copy Gann Lookout…..

Foxtrot from Engine 8…..Engine 8 go ahead……Be advised the fire has reached our trigger point, we’re going to evacuate back across the creek to our safety zone……I copy you’re moving across the creek, do we have any other resources on that side of the creek?......negative, but if you could send one ambulance our way to get our civilian checked out to make sure his alright……I copy, any way to move the civilian out of that area so we don’t have to have a medic come in?......Affirmative, we’ll bring the civilian out……..Copy, what is the condition of the civilian?.......The civilian has slight heat exposure but appears to be stable…..Copy heat exposure but stable….

Foxtrot, Engine 5…..Engine 5 go ahead…..Update, we have a lookout on the south side on 37 Sandy Lane, we have an escape route and safety zone set, we have a secondary water supply which is a pool, 500 gallons…..Copy 500 gallon pool, established LCES……

At the end of the incident, each crew leader had to explain the reasoning behind their decisions made and trigger points noted, relevant and comprehensive training.  Tactics and strategy related to WUI structure protection continued throughout the period, with on scene reports practiced during the late afternoon. 

The last day of instruction, Thursday, December 4th, 2014, started with a Battalion briefing in the redesigned student library, proud roars as everyone arrived ready to hear the day’s plan.  Completing academy demobilization, taking a morning group photo dressed in uniform, working the “Duck Fire” in the mud, taking an afternoon group photo dressed in mud clad brush gear, cleaning and returning that mud clad brush gear and lastly conducting the final academy summary prior to dismissal.  What a great day we had planned.

Facilities maintenance was the first order, clean the student break room, academy refrigerator and locker room showers.  Once complete, cadets were instructed relocate to the hose drying rack and bunker row to acquire all hose, tools and equipment necessary to work the “Duck Fire”.  This fire would be managed in the duck pond area located west on the Fire Tech Building.  Recent rains made for perfect muddy conditions-I’m typing with all smiles.

The incident was run by the cadets acting in a variety of roles.  Both morning and afternoon exercises would be similar with crews swapping assignments.  For instance, companies functioning as hand crews in the morning would work as engine crews progressively laying hose in the afternoon.  Division leaders, engine captains and engineers, and hand crew leaders were appointed by the drill instructors, with Charlie Officer Gullo and Alpha Officer Hamilton operating as Divisions A & B leaders during the morning and Cadets Minyard and Stevens serving as Division Leaders during the afternoon, excellent radio communications throughout the exercise.

Hose was progressively laid, fire lines were cut and shelters deployed.  An impromptu water drop drill was initiated as Ventura County Fire’s Helicopter flew over.  They enjoyed the role play, activating their signal for a drop forcing the cadets to hit the mud face down in an effort to protect themselves from the simulated water release.  An applause goes out to the entire Battalion for a commanding performance for running their own exercise and conducting their own After Action Reviews.

The last group photo was taken with all cadets piling on the soon to be surveyed Engine 4.  Muddy faces and big teeth smiles said everything, what a great end to an awesome semester.  42, you lived every part of your train to survive motto, as you worked toward successful academy completion.  This chapter of your life will close in a couple days at graduation.  Stay in touch and support one another as you advance through application processes and firefighter trainee appointments and ultimately your careers.  You’ve done well.

Captain Crudo

Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 15   Wildland Fire Training

Only three days were available for instruction this week, as Thanksgiving weekend was on the horizon. The long list of objectives scheduled to cover during this short period kept time management as a priority.

To maintain structure and attention to detail, Monday morning started off with a full inspection of all cadet areas, uniform, still to be returned academy issued gear, book storage and locker organization. By 0800 the group stood in the classroom at attention, awaiting the order of “Seats”. The last block exam followed. These exams cover a variety of material and several chapters. Questions are generated from the reading assignments posted on the classroom board. The content of a given exam varies by Battalion as calendars and topics are rearranged every semester to meet instructor and prop availability.  This particular exam had a strong focus on hazardous materials. 

The Basics of Wildland Firefighter Training began at 0900 in the classroom.  A review of wildland terminology covered last Thursday started the session off.  As was mentioned in earlier reading, speaking the same language is crucial to wildland incident mitigation.  Terminology is categorized by topography, wildland fuels, weather and fire behavior, each with its own characteristics.  Slope, aspect, elevation and terrain are topographical terms.  The fuels category lists vegetation by size and type, light grass to heavy timber, each burning significantly different. Weather uses terms such as wind, air moisture, stability and temperature and fire behavior with its descriptions of how fast the fire is moving, rate of spread, and/or how hot the fire is burning, fire intensity.

To paint a paragraph length picture of terms just discussed and using the Ventura Avenue hillsides as a back drop, here is a simple story of how things can come together.  It’s a sunny afternoon on a 4th of July weekend in Ventura, 75-80 degrees, dry vegetation because of drought, afternoon winds blowing from the southwest.  Families living in close proximity of the hillside are celebrating.  An aggressive celebrator lights an air streaming firework into the sky.  The firework turned ignition source lands in the dry vegetation near the base of the hillside.  A small fire starts in light grass. Afternoon winds push the fire closer to the hillside base where fast burning fuel begins to ignite from radiant heat. With the fuel at the hillside base now burning and preheating denser vegetation above it, this very steep slope with a west facing aspect in direct sunlight burns at a rapid rate of fire spread, growing in intensity until it reaches the ridge and is finally able to control.  Aspect, direct sunlight, wind, high percentage of slope, vegetation and fuel moisture all had an influence on the outcome.

Cadets did a thorough job of processing similar information as new terms and suppression concepts were introduced.  It’s very important for them to have an understanding of how all those factors influence the fire behavior and each other.  Topography was shown on the overhead screen as the cadets were taught to study each slope and its given fuel or aspect, the time of day and the resulting fire behavior.  A number of visuals were shown to reinforce comprehension.

The Incident Command System is used when battling wild fires and was discussed at length.  Crews learned how to manage a large fire by dividing the area involved and were later able to identify the type of resources necessary to work the fire. The Standard Firefighting Orders and 18 Watchout Situations, commonly called the 10s & 18s were reviewed a line at a time to reinforce the importance of the orders.  On many occasions fires resulting in injury or death have been investigated and have found these orders and watchouts were not adhered to, thus contributing to the problem causing the injury or death.

After lunch, the group learned how to implement a standard guideline for wild fires called LCES. The mnemonic stands for Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, and Safety Zones. Each of these life-saving guidelines should be identified and used accordingly to increase chances of survival when fighting wild fires.  A lookout is someone posted high on a ridge or other area offering a full view of the fire’s progress.  This lookout should have strong knowledge of wild fire behavior and constantly monitor the situation below interpreting or predicting fire behavior while maintaining active communications with assigned crews.  Escape routes are the identified paths used to literally escape.  These paths should lead the crews to the predesignated safety zone a short distance away.  If a safety zone cannot be identified within close proximity, then safe refuge areas are temporarily used.

Deploying a fire shelter in adverse fire conditions is one of the most life-threatening situations a wildland firefighter can be in.  These shelters are a part of every crew member’s personal protective gear and are worn at all times during suppression efforts.  Utilizing this protection takes practice.  The shelter, a make-shift one person tent, is folded tight and carried in a canvas clad plastic container.  The wearer must remove the shelter from its case, open the folds to expose an area of the tent to step on, position their body inside and lie down while tucking edges in, not easy, especially when winds are actively blowing.  The group used the duck pond area on the west side of academy grounds to don their tents and yes, a light afternoon wind made for a little fun.

Tuesday morning would be the last pistol range run of the semester.  The range, just over a couple of miles away with a down and back trip measuring in just under five miles, is a nice destination to run to and change of pace from the formation runs throughout the academy grounds.  Class wasn’t scheduled to start until 0900, however the Battalion was instructed to report in uniform at 0830 for the first viewing of the Battalion 42 Grad Movie.  The overall movie last ninety minutes and was sectioned off into three parts to avoid interrupting a day’s lessons.  

Wildland continued with lessons involving the use of ICS.  On this morning, the use of briefings were implemented and ultimately used for the remainder of the semester.  Acting Battalion Officer Gratz was given his orders for the session.  His assignment was to brief his officers, then have them brief their crews on what was to be completed during this period.  The session lasted a bit longer than anticipated as the new officers did their best to complete the task at hand.  The ability to communicate is important, but briefing clear and concise takes practice.

Following the exercise, the Battalion returned to the classroom for Introduction to Wildland Urban Interface WUI Operations.  WUI is the area where hillsides and mountainous terrain backup to adjacent communities.  Providing protection in this interface must be strategic to ensure the safety of crews and the public.  This introductory session prepared the cadets for sand table exercises scheduled the last week of the academy. Transportation Safety discussions followed and led the group to the lunch period.  During the second half of the lunch period, company officers were assigned to outfit their crews with academy issued web gear.  Web gear is a canvas harness or back pack containing a fire shelter, pouches for canteens, radios and compact items.  The gear is worn by every firefighter on the fire lines.

The Battalion reported to the Ventura County Fire airship hanger after lunch for helicopter orientation.  Safety training for operating near these ships is life-saving, with approach and situational awareness playing a key role while in close proximity of moving rotary blades.  The copters carry fire crews to remote places and also serve as air attack dropping water or aerial reconnaissance to ground crews.  The Ventura County Air Crews did a great job welcoming the Battalion and covering basic safety measures to perform during air operations.  Their presence will later be taken advantage of during onsite wildland incident training.

The Wildland Firefighter Training final exam was scheduled for 1400 hours in the academy classroom.  Upon completion, cadets were to gather equipment and personal protective clothing and gear and report to the mat in front of the apparatus bay for introduction training on how to prepare hose packs for deployment.  The packs are worn by working crew members and deployed in progression along the fire line.  Basic pack inventory consists of 200’ of light weight hose measuring one and one-half inch in diameter, clamps to squeeze the hose closed, small metal appliances called in-line hose tees used for attaching one inch hose as needed, and a fire hose nozzle with a handle called a bale, as a shut-off.

Companies worked together rolling the hose and building their packs, with each squad assigned one pack.  Once all groups were donned and ready, a demonstration of how to deploy the packs was given.  Progressive hose lay is the term given to this style of deployment because the lay is advanced in sections along the fire’s edge with the hose always charged full of water.  Cadets had to communicate with one another to roll out the hose to be attached, crimp the charged line closed, bleed the line and remove the nozzle, attach the next hose section, release the hose clamp to allow water flow and advance the charged line further along the fire’s edge while spraying water in a conservative yet productive extinguishing pattern, great practice.  The day ended with hose pack breakdown, wet hose racked for drying, appliances cleaned of debris and gear inventoried. 

The Wednesday morning briefing focused on continued demobe with the stripping of Engine 1 and the return of all remaining non-wildland related academy gear as the morning’s primary focus.  The entire battalion was brought together to discuss assignments and morning expectations.  Alpha Company Officer Hamilton was in-charge of inventorying all SCBA masks, practice rope and nylon tubular webbing, Bravo Company Officer Brinkman and Charlie Company Officer Gullo were responsible for removing, rolling and stacking all large diameter fire hose with Delta Company Officer Villavicenio tasked with removing, rolling and stacking all small diameter hose.  Cadet Whitby was assigned to oversee the placement of all equipment in its designated area, a small rectangular footprint on the apparatus floor.  Equipment was to be placed in a tight, organized fashion. 

With instructions in order, the Battalion set up for their last circuit training workout and last trips of running to the roof of the tower, SCBA donned, arriving and yelling their motto, bitter sweet.  The second grad movie viewing started at 0830.  Cadets watched the footage while listening to classic rock music soundtrack added in the background.  A few cadets made comment relating the music to a movie produced years earlier named “Almost Famous”.  This intrigued me, as I have never seen nor made note of this picture.  Finding, buying and watching this movie over Thanksgiving weekend was just added to my things to do list.

Wednesday’s focused took the cadets deeper into on scene reports, incident management and implementing LCES.  Visuals would be displayed on the screen as cadets took turns talking their way through the given scenario.  This was productive practice because it prepared the group for the afternoon sand table exercises.  A sand table is a free standing table, rectangular shaped, waist high filled half high with sand perfect for shaping.  Fictitious hillside communities can be formed for a variety of wildland fire situations.  Fire engine hot wheels are used as responding apparatus and model scale vegetation as potential fuel for the incoming red yarn bordered wildfire.

A few scenarios were planned and managed in depth, assigning resources into extended attack operations.  Cadets worked the Blunt Fire, fifteen acres burning in light brush with patch timber, southwest winds at twenty miles per hour and wind gusts at forty-five miles per hour.  Cadets had the fire separated into Divisions, with Engine 22 acting as Division Alpha and Engine 21 as Division Zulu.  LCES was established and responding companies, water tenders, dozers, additional engines and hand crews strategically placed.  A number of roles were played as cadets acted out and documented the scenario.

Wildland lessons for the day were completed by 1530 hours.  However, the morning’s demobe assignment had yet to be documented.  Companies used their phones to photograph the inventory removed from Engine 1 earlier.  The pictures were added to written inventory lists as a follow up.  The Battalion did a thorough job of keeping equipment organized while maintaining accountability.  Once all documentation was submitted, Acting Battalion Officer Gratz dismissed the group for the holiday weekend.

It’s the home stretch 42, with only a week on the horizon.  You’re in the midst of a commanding finish.  The demobilization duties you’ve completed thus far are comprehensive and organized.  The new company officers are performing well and appropriately chosen, a round of applause to former Officers Cleary, Gorski, Locke and Minyard for the recommendations.

Captain Crudo