In the Hot Zone: How Firefighters Make the Rescue PART II

When a house fire breaks out, people can be sleeping, unconscious, or even trapped by the flames themselves.

We depend on firefighters to rescue us.

We spent the morning with the Fargo Fire Department and they show us how first responders carry out the daring rescues.

Calling out they’ve found a victim is the signal that someone has been found during a rescue mission.

But getting to this point takes plenty of foresight, intuition, and training.

Firefighters can learn if a victim is trapped inside a burning structure as early as the initial 911 call.
The first thing firefighters are concerned with when they show up to a home is finding any victims that may be inside and need rescuing.
“If we get a confirmed report of possible victims inside, that just makes this scenario that much more urgent,” said Battalion Chief Bruce Anderson.
But before they can enter the home, they have to come up with a game plan as to where the person might possibly be.
“I mean, if it’s in the middle of the night you know, we’re thinking bedrooms so you know we try to mentally picture depending on the structure, depending on the age of the structure, where the bedrooms might be in this building,” said Chief Anderson.
But even if they know someone is trapped, finding them in the smoke and flames is a lot harder than you think.
“You’re not going to be able to see things like you saw up there like you could see the fire and everything else,” said Captain Clark Dietz. “Typically we won’t even be able to see the fire. We’ll just feel the heat.”
This makes having a game plan for locating any victims essential.

Firefighters sometimes have nothing to go by but their sense of touch to find them.

And once they’re found…the next challenge is getting everyone out.
“They’re probably going to be unconscious so you’ve just got dead weight,” said Chief Anderson. “It typically takes at least two firefighters to drag a victim out.”
When you take the weight of an unconscious body and add it to the almost 80 pounds of gear the firefighters are already carrying, it’s not hard to imagine how difficult a firefighter’s job really is.

Chief Anderson says these life or death situations always make for a stressful day on the job.
“It’s still there,” he explains. “I don’t care how long you’re doing it. When you go in and you’re doing a potentially life threatening situation there’s some stress there and it’s just something that you have to learn to deal with.”
And that’s why training exercises like these are essential to making sure the firefighters have every possible tool they need to be successful and save lives.