Politicians and media members suited up Friday and experienced aspects of a firefighter’s job firsthand at the third annual Prince George’s County Firefighters and Paramedics Association Fire Ops 101 at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute in College Park.
The event helps people understand what firefighters go through on the job with three different demonstrations — a maze, a controlled fire and watching how firefighters cut crash victims out of vehicles, said Mark Brady, Prince George’s County Fire/EMS spokesman. About 45 people, a mix of media members and politicians, showed up despite the rain, Brady said.
“The objective is, people come out of this with a renewed appreciation of firefighters and knowledge of what it takes to equip a firefighter,” Brady said. “All you could hear them say was, ‘I had no idea.’”
The maze is a pitch-black series of twists and turns, where participants wear all of the firefighter gear, except the breathing apparatus, and use their sense of touch to move through the room, avoiding pitfalls, he said.
The live, controlled fire is an exercise where participants are put into a room with a controlled fire, wearing full gear including the breathing mask and experience how hot and smoky a room can get while it’s burning, Brady said.
The purpose of the event is to show elected officials and media members what firefighters go through so when the department needs to lobby the officials or deal with the media, both groups understand where the firefighters are coming from, Brady said.
This year’s event had about half as many as last year due to the weather. The union plans to hold the event next year but there hasn’t been any word on whether it will be in the spring or fall of 2014, Brady said.