Four students from Hill Field Elementary got the ride of a lifetime this past Friday morning. Instead of going to school with all the other kids, these lucky four were picked up from their homes by a firetruck and taken to the Hill AFB Fire Station to be firefighters for the day.
Sophie Morris, 11, Andreea Wallace, 10, Chloe Rudd, 11, and Stephen Hullender, 11, were winners of an essay writing contest for which the topic was "Protect Your Family from Fire."
The children arrived in Ladder Truck No. 1 at the station at just around eight in the morning. GS8 Fire Inspector Chris Wilkins escorted the kids around the station before they returned to the vehicle for some ladder truck training.
Each of the children, with the assistance of firefighters Dustin Maruquin and Chris Gerdes, placed wheel chocks behind the wheels and helped extend the truck stabilizers. They then raised and lowered the ladder from atop the rear of the vehicle. They were also shown how to operate the ladder from the bucket at the front of the firetruck.
The students were tasked to run some drills putting on firefighting protective gear, though the children had some competition from Firefighter Keith Pluta. It was explained that a firefighter should be able to put their gear on in a minute and a half; most can do it within 45 seconds.
The kids were asked to beat a firefighter at getting dressed out in basic fire gear. To sweeten the deal, if the kids beat Pluta in the race they would receive some Jolly Rancher candies as a prize.
Firefighter Pluta was beaten by a margin of mere seconds by the children. However, firefighter Pluta, had to put on the full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) "bunker gear" which consisted of: boots, pants, coat, flash hood, breathing apparatus, and helmet. Chloe was the first to completely dress out in shoes, pants, coat and helmet. The students noted how fast firefighters have to put their gear on and that it is not like it is in the movies.
On the opposite side of the fire station, the students got to see firsthand the driver's seat of the P-19 Striker Crash Truck. The P-19 is used for aircraft firefighting. They got a chance to operate the truck nozzle and squirt water from inside the cabin of the Striker, which Andreea said she really enjoyed.
Afterward, hot cocoa and snacks were enjoyed in the firefighters mess hall before the students took a ride in Ladder Truck No. 1 to a structural fire demonstration.
Here the students assisted the firefighters in putting out a real, but staged structural fire at a training facility on base. A planned a C-130 firefighting demonstration became a tour of the cockpit and cargo bay of a C-130 Hercules because of time constraints.
The day ended around noon for the children with a barbecue cookout with the base firefighters, but not until they helped wash an ambulance.
The students put it best: Chloe reported, "Firefighting is awesome," and Steven couldn't pick just one thing he enjoyed the most about the day of being a firefighter, concluding, "All of the above."