Six firefighters crawled on their hands and knees through the blackness, searching for a woman and child lying somewhere inside the cluttered, dark basement.
Another fire victim, a man, told volunteers it was his wife and child trapped in the basement apartment. So there the firefighters went, pushing along the floor, feeling the walls and other objects under the weight of their gear, their fire axes dragging.
The plywood wall to their left rattled, drowning out the hissing of the firefighters’ air packs.
“That’s a loud noise over in that corner,” Southold Fire Chief Bill Byrnes called out to the trainees shuffling at his feet in the firehouse basement.
Eventually they’d find the victims (a set of plastic dummies) and breach a fake window to explore the rest of the area. The training is designed to simulate a basement fire, where thick smoke and a lack of electricity makes it impossible to see.
This past Wednesday night, Southold Fire Department chiefs invited The Suffolk Times along to give the public a taste of what a session of training is like. (See photos below.)
During the drill, chiefs follow along in the darkness with a thermal imaging camera, watching the Southold firefighters train.
The training course Wednesday night was cluttered up with a shopping cart, dangling wooden blocks on strings and a series of cots set up by Captain Barry Standish, who runs the training exercises. By the time firefighters took off their gear and huddled together in the basement, they had found all the victims and even explored a section of the course that wasn’t supposed to be part of the drill.
“They did real good,” assistant chief Peggy Killian said.
Have you got what it takes? Learn more about becoming a Southold firefighter