Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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The experience at the burn building was priceless

I wasn’t ever scared. With longtime firefighter Terry Snellings by my side, I walked in the burning building twice.

Snellings showed me how a thermal imaging camera works for searching and how it works to locate a fire. I was amazed with the capabilities of those devices that sort of look like a viewfinder on top of a handle.

He basically had me be the second member of a two-member search team. The other firefighter was in the room doing a primary search, which usually involves using a tool with a crowbar-like hook at the end. Not only does that tool bust through stuff, it can be swept across a room to determine its size. A primary search is fast but methodically done to ensure everything in that room is touched and turned.

The second time was during a live actual fire and we just swept room to room on our knees using the thermal imaging camera, which helped us locate the fire in a room closet. When I entered the room where the fire was, I will never forget the heat. I was stunned. I was standing and looking through the TIC and when I dropped to my knees it was a little cooler and easier to see in the room.

If in a fire, drop to the ground and get as close to the floor as you can. There is less smoke and heat if you do that.

The experience was great. I felt comfortable with the heavy uniform and I didn’t overheat. I lost 1 pound of water weight. I had confidence and thought I could have done more tasks if they wanted me to do it. I might ask if I can participate in the June training, too.

As a former public safety reporter, I wish I had this experience years ago. I’ve experienced just about everything there is with fire and rescue but entering a smoke-filled burning building.

Now I can say that I have been in a smoke-filled burning building and the experience has me better prepared if I were to ever be in a real house fire.

I want to thank the combined system of paid and volunteer firefighters for letting me participate.

I'm not about to cry, trust me. I was just tired :)


  • bhaas

    Way to go, Dan. We are proud of you. Thanks for posting the story and the pictures.

    Your next assignment is to get down to the Gulf of Mexico and shut down that oil leak.

  • MD

    Good job Dan!! Nothing like getting real hands on experience of live fire and search and rescue training. A big THANKS to Spotsylvania County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management for your experience and securing a training house.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    man …did you ever pick a day! It was icky at 9am this morning…

    what’s your next “experience” ?

    and yes.. good job… and thanks for sharing.. and thanks to the firefighter guys for giving you the opportunity.

  • Do_what

    Wow! I can’t believe that no volunteers had any snide remarks to make.