I'm not light, but Holmes assured me they could (and would) get me out. He got me in and out of a burning building safely, and now holds a new place of distinction in my mind.
If I had gotten lost, passed out or couldn't move, there is a built-in safety measure – a “pass device” on the SCBA. VanNatta said it's a “warning system that if [firefighters] stay still for 30 seconds, it goes off and will help us locate them. They can't stand still.”
Since it was training, these went off periodically, and they are loud, like an audible house alarm.
Back inside the burning room, Jacobson was practicing an indirect approach to extinguishing a fire. VanNatta explained that in this method the firefighter would hit the ceiling, not the fire below, and “the water comes down on fire and starts to cool the room down and get the temperature down. The fire cools down and makes it more bearable for the firemen.”
To experience this, the trainer put hay on the fire and it shot up onto the ceiling, reminding me of the movie “Backdraft.” As the fire fingered towards us, Seth hit it high and moved the hose down, bringing the fire down to its origin.
As he did this a couple of times, I eventually felt the heat. But the fire lapping toward me, from above, made a bigger impression. I got a bit scared, and considered leaving at one point, but put my trust in those in charge who talked Seth through controlling it.
The biggest impression I left with was how important each piece of clothing and equipment is to a department, and how important it is to train each member.
Although this was a tremendous learning experience for me, I didn't need it to know how valuable volunteer firefighters are to a community. Shortly before the PK Complex Fire in 2011, which kept crews from Palo Pinto County and beyond occupied for close to a month, I came way too close to losing a family member to fire.