The South Gulf Fire Rescue volunteers gathered around the conference table to inspect the apparatus.
It was about two and a half feet long and heavy, weighing 30, maybe 40 pounds. Spikes at its base would help secure it to the ground, the fire hose attached to the back and the nozzle could be placed at any angle between 10 and 86 degrees and twisted to generate the desired stream of water.
It is called a blitz line pumping apparatus, and South Gulf Fire Chief Mike Barrett gave those gathered careful, detailed instructions about how it could be used.
“We have limited resources,” Barrett said. “I.E. equipment, I.E. personnel.”
“Thank God for Port St. Joe and the Beaches and Highland View,” he continued. “You know, thank God for all these other departments that come out here and help us, but look at geography. They’re a minimum of 20 minutes away, so any structure we pull up on that’s burning is our baby for 20 minutes.”
Barrett explained to the group that the blitz line pump is designed to spray a large amount of water over quickly. Because of its ability to be secured to one spot, it can be used when manpower is low, freeing up an additional firefighter or volunteer to tend to other needs.
Each volunteer got the opportunity to hold the equipment – lift it up, twist the nozzle. Then, the group headed to Fire Station 2’s lawn to test it out.
Taking turns, they planted the blitz line in the grass, then they took a few minutes to adjust the flow of the water, replicating different scenarios that might come in handy in a real fire situation.
John Ehrman, who has been volunteering with the department for about a year, said that the training was especially important for those in the group who were not yet certified as firefighters, including himself.
“Right now, it’s all about knowing how I can offer support,” he said. “I am a first responder, and whenever I can, I answer the calls that come in and go help.”
“We do these types of trainings at least once a month or so,” he said. “It’s all about repetition.”
Because the blitz line can be set and left outside a burning building, it can be used by volunteers like Ehrman, who in many circumstances would not be permitted to actually enter the structure.
Barrett said that continued training like this is important to ensuring that first responders, both firefighters and support volunteers, are prepared for real-life scenarios, which are rare on Cape San Blas, but becoming more frequent as more homes are built.
“The Cape is not like it was five years ago, so we can’t be like we were five years ago,” he said.