Deadly scenarios simulated in HFD’s line-of-duty safety training

Tragedies involving firefighters on the mainland now have the Honolulu Fire Department retraining their men and women who serve on the line of duty.

HFD says fire departments on the mainland were seeing an alarming number of line-of-duty deaths because many lacked the understanding to handle fires in modern-day buildings.

“(For example, in Hawaii) the state building code was changed last year. We have to insulate all the exterior walls. If we insulate the exterior walls, we hold the fire in. The fire is going to get hotter quicker and it causes these types of situations,” said Capt. Joey Condlin.

Now, firefighters are undergoing intensive training to ensure tragedies don’t hit close to home.

It will take five and a half months for all 1,100 of them to undergo the intensive three-day course.

Held at the training enter on Valkenburg Street, firefighters face six different real-life scenarios based off of a line-of-duty death on the mainland.

“For each individual person that’s out in our operations, this training is very essential,” said Capt. Darrell Hee.

In one exercise, created after two died and four more injured when they were forced to jump out of fourth-floor windows, firefighters learned how to safely climb out of the window of a multiple-story building.

In another, a fully-clothed firefighter must learn how to climb through a tiny hole measuring 14 inches wide. The hole simulates drywall in modern-day buildings.

Another exercise taught firefighters to climb out the third floor of a building head-first down the ladder to prevent suffocation from heavy smoke.

“Building construction has changed. Building codes has changed. So we have to change,” said Condlin.

After two days of training, firefighters are put through a last test. Called a “confidence maze,” firefighters are put in a dark room and forced to fight their way safely out.

“It’s about your mindset,” explained Condlin. “Because we get put into bad situations, your anxiety level and confusion level gets all the way to the top. When we’re confused or disoriented, we cannot act, we cannot work. We cannot save you, we cannot save ourselves.”

HFD says so far, no one in Hawaii has died in the line of duty and it wants to keep it that way.

“We’re firefighters for sure, but we’re also husbands and brothers and fathers and sons. So we each have families. But in the moment, these are our family,” said firefighter Sam Taeu.

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