Academy Blog Series- Battalion 42

Week 11       Auto Extrication, Flammable Fuels - Foam Application; Propane Fire Suppression

A collision data inquiry from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) shows a 2012 report identifying 2,758 fatal traffic collisions and 159,696 injury collisions for the year. This week Battalion 42 learned the techniques used to gain access to those victims needing rescue or recovery while trapped in a entangled vehicle following a traffic collision.

Vehicle extrication, as explained in Wikipedia, is the process of removing a vehicle from around a person who has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, when conventional means of exit are impossible or inadvisable.  A delicate approach is needed to minimize injury to the victim during the extrication. The first two days of week 11 were dedicated to the extrication process. Course delivery followed the guidelines of State Fire Training with curriculum material coming from the 16 hour certification course named, Auto Extrication.

After workout early Monday morning, the cadets assisted with tool and equipment set-up in an area we call, the Bleve Dirt Lot.  Vehicles slated for destruction were previously identified and placed in manner allowing full access to all sides during the extrication drills. The number of vehicles per battalion is determined by the number of cadets within that battalion. Thirty-four cadets were able to tear, pry, strike and cut into fourteen later model vehicles, made available by Ventura County Fire Department and Double R Towing.  A big thank you.

The course started off with classroom lecture covering concepts and theory related to various vehicle types and anatomy, rescue tools and equipment, tool limitations and proven methods of entry. Following the lesson and discussions, the group formed up at the Bleve dirt lot for instructor led demonstrations.

A state certified instructor was assigned and remained dedicated to each company.  A number of stations were set-up so instructors could demonstrate the use of a given tool, then allow cadets to follow up with the application of that tool. The areas to be practiced involved vehicle stabilization utilizing metal posts with an inner adjustable sleeve called struts, cribbing and step chocks and gaining access utilizing hydraulic power tools such as spreaders, cutters and rams. The general public refers to these hydraulic power tools as the Jaws of Life.

As the companies watched the demonstrations, instructors interacted with questions and comment related to technique tips the cadets would soon put into play.  Throughout the afternoon, cadets would practice cutting and removing vehicle roofs, clipping a section of and flipping the roofs, removing (popping) doors, rolling dashboards, jacking dashboards, breaking glass, cutting the entire supporting metal between front and rear doors (B-post blowout), creating a third door in the absence of one and pretty much completely demolishing any vehicle they could get their hands on. They had a destructive blast!

Tuesday morning started with an 0700 leadership transition meeting. Cadet Whitby, who served as the Acting Battalion Officer and led the group through Rescue Systems 1 training returned the Battalion Officer post to Cadet Minicucci. Other transitions were at the company level.  Alpha Company Officer Cleary, Bravo Company Officer Gorski, Charlie Company Officer Locke and Delta Company Officer Minyard were appointed and introduced to the Battalion.

Morning workout, tool and equipment set-up followed up with another short classroom lecture started Auto X day two. Hybrid vehicles was the topic for discussion. Even though we are logistically we are unable to acquire such vehicles for extrication, the lesson was valuable knowledge nonetheless, offering problem solving thoughts while managing collisions involving them.

The practical component of this day had cadets working in companies as if they were assigned to the first arriving engine or truck crews.  The engine company would arrive to a vehicle on its side and was tasked with vehicle assessment and stabilization.  The truck company would come in next, assess and determine their plan of action, then go to work to extricate the manikins inside.

The first rotation had Alpha Company performing as the engine crew with Bravo Company as the truck crew.  Officers Cleary and Gorski did well communicating with each other during the combined rescue efforts of their crews. Officers were allowed to make their own decisions as they guided their crew through the exercise. An After Action Review was conducted at the end of the drill. An analysis of each Officer's thought process was discussed and expanded on. Once all actions were reviewed, Companies Charlie and Delta were given their chance to perform with Officers Locke and Minyard calling the shots.

The course ended with evaluation by company.  Each group was given a scenario with a trapped victim requiring extrication. Companies were to perform all tasks required to disentangle the trapped victim in addition to managing patient care (another cadet) during the extrication. Company Charlie secured first place with their commanding rescue efforts being awarded with the finest articles of junk instructors could muster up from the vehicle pool. Good job Charlie.

Auto X ended with a lengthy clean-up and documentation phase.  All vehicle metal was properly stowed in designated containers, vehicles were relocated for tow yard pickup, debris cleared from the ground, vehicle identification numbers recorded and tools cleaned and bedded. An additional assignment was issued to remove all upholstery from two pick up trucks for the next round of drills scheduled Thursday. Cadets were encouraged and allowed to grab their tool of choice to complete the assignment. Some worked methodically with attempts to save a bench seat while others relied on brute force showing off their best auto body shop destructive skills.

LAFD Captain Mike Ketaily is the primary administrator of our Fire Tech/Academy/EMT Facebook page. He does an outstanding job of marketing our programs in addition to distributing information regarding area fire departments and their open application processes. As a result, cadets learned the City of Torrance was accepting applications in limited number to take effect Wednesday morning at 0730.

An 0650 Battalion briefing was conducted to poll the group on the number of cadets wishing to apply.  Eighteen members filed into our Fire Tech Simulation Room where eighteen computers sat at the ready.  The cadets signed in and typed away as the deadline time approached, each working diligently to submit all required information. By 0815, half of the Battalion completed circuit training workouts while the other submitted resumes.  

Once the Sim Room detail was complete, crews cleaned up to prepare for a classroom delivery on Flammable Fuels and Suppression Techniques.  Fuel types, extinguishing techniques and suppression products were covered. Cadets learned the differences between foam used for flammable liquids verses the foam used for ordinary combustibles.  They were taken to our Hazardous Materials classroom lab and shown the reaction differences between higher and lower foam concentrates.  By the day's end the Battalion was well prepped for foam application training scheduled the next day.

Thursday by far was the hottest day of the week. Not by weather temperature but by fuel temperature as cadets would experience live propane fire suppression techniques. The day's drills were conducted in the same fashion as drills held in earlier weeks. A four station rotation in the morning and two station in the afternoon. Morning station duration times were set at 45 minutes with afternoon times set at 90 minutes.

Foam operations and propane ground school were the morning topics.  Crews at the first station sprayed Class B foam on a commercial trailer utilizing varying application techniques to suppress a liquid fuel fire. The second station had cadets spreading a thicker blanket of foam used for vapor suppression.  Cadets not on either of the Class B hose lines or foam nozzles staffed the foam eductor set up a distance away. Eductors are devices attached to the hose with the ability to draw concentrate from its container and mix it with the passing water. Class A foam was introduced at the third station. Cadets would set this mixture to a concentrate much less than that of Class B foam. Nozzle application techniques were practiced on an upright railcar prop.

The fourth station of the morning prepared the group for afternoon propane burning.  Propane ground school teaches the companies how to set up their water charged hose lines in a manner allowing an organized and unison approach to the burning objective.  During ground school no fuel is burning. Only the techniques of approach or managing burst lines are covered. This type of training allows for safer and more productive afternoon sessions when the heat and fuel is on.

The two afternoon drill stations consisted of vehicle fire suppression techniques on the north side of Bleve and flammable gas fire (propane) suppression techniques on the south side. Wood cut up from earlier drills at the roof prop was utilized to stuff and ignite the pick-up trucks prepared the day before.  Re-ignition attempts were challenging and impeded crew rotation. We will reconsider the use of a more reliable burning product in future semesters as not every crew had the opportunity to perform vehicle fire suppression techniques. However the station was overall productive letting a smaller number of crews extinguish the vehicle fires.

On the south side of Bleve sat the propane tree, a device built to dispense the flammable gas at a given level. Cadets organized themselves at various hose lines and advanced toward the burning fuel in unison while following hand signals of the cadre leaders. Hand signals were most appropriate because the roaring, thunderous sound of the gas releasing and igniting was very loud. The tree burned with flame lengths one would perceive as impossible to manage. However experienced fuel cadre members guided the crews in with confidence, allowing each cadet to get up close and personal with a protected view of a controlled burning environment. Nothing but awesome statements during the day's After Action Reviews. The training is a keeper.

The heat was on this week, literally.  The Battalion photo shown in this blog was the group picture taken at the end of burning. A protection line was actively spraying the backs of cadets as they posed for the photo.

The week ended with a family celebration and performance of tasks learned. A hearty potluck with food donations from all variations.  Incredibly filling and delicious. Pulled pork, meatballs, tri-tip, pasta salad, salsa, chips and the like, as well as desserts and cookies you had to keep your eye out for were tasty enough to keep me refilling my plate.  Complements to all the chefs.

What a great week 42.  I am absolutely enjoying myself as I monitor your continued successes. You are doing a fine job and have every reason to stand proud, just think of what you have accomplished so far. Stay the course, graduation is on the horizon.

Captain Crudo