Intense training highlights the challenges facing Utah firefighters

MAGNA, Utah – Each year, the Unified Fire Authority hosts Fire School 101, a day-long event where city leaders, city employees and other community members participate in fire training and observe demonstrations.

“I hope you go home today tired, sweaty and maybe a little hungry,” said Fire Chief Dominic Burchett.

This year, a group of participants from Taylorsville, Herriman, Brighton and other cities started the day at 6:30 a.m., just like a firefighter would.

“When I was a little boy who wanted to be a firefighter, that dream came true!” said Jeff Bossard with the City of Brighton.

One of the first big realizations of the day was realizing the weight of the bunker equipment.

“One snowsuit times ten. He is extremely heavy. “I didn’t expect the weight,” said Anastasia Limantzakis. “I could barely get dressed, let alone run into a building. But that’s the challenge of the day, right?”

The group was presented with various challenges throughout the day. They had to carry water in a tarp to put out a burning pallet and follow the leader's instructions via radio.

“I can barely hear what they're saying on the radio,” said FOX 13 News reporter Emily Tencer.

“This can be done with good, clear communication without a mask,” explained a firefighter. “If we’re on fire, it sounds like a mangled mess.”

Participants had to crawl through tunnels in confined spaces while avoiding wires and obstacles in the way.

“A little bit of panic is setting in,” described Taylorsville Councilwoman Meredith Harker. “That’s when I felt my heartbeat and the adrenaline. I thought, 'Okay, I have to get out of here.'”

“The public has a good idea of ​​what we do, but it's completely different when you see it for yourself,” said Benjamin Porter, public information officer.

One of the most physically demanding tasks of the day was carrying a hose up six flights of stairs.

“I can't imagine it's August and 100 degrees and they still want to wear that to protect themselves,” said Taylorsville Councilwoman Anna Barbieri.

The group had the opportunity to fight fires and tear a car apart with the claws of life, but some of the most eye-opening moments came when I stood back and watched the professionals do what they do best.

“I really appreciate the firefighters who will be doing this for 20, 30 years,” Barbieri said. “I don’t know how her body does it.”

The department demonstrated how it responds to a cardiac arrest call and how the difference in staffing can impact how a situation is handled.

They showcased their hazmat team and technique and also demonstrated a Stokes corret, where Emily Tencer was strapped in and lowered down the six-story building.

Firefighters rushed into a burning building on the training grounds to demonstrate their response times and rescue plans. To illustrate a serious rescue, a medical helicopter even landed and flew away.

“It’s really extraordinary,” Barbieri said. “Really extraordinary.”

Some of the greatest insights came not through physical challenges or jaw-dropping demonstrations, but simply through real conversations.

“We spend a lot of time at the station, away from friends, family and loved ones,” said one firefighter.

“I would be pretty uncomfortable entering your world for a day and the goal here is for us to have mutual respect for what each other does,” said another.

Anna Harden

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