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As building heights increase, firefighters train to keep up

According to South Gulf Fire Rescue’s Fire Chief Mike Barrett, about 85 percent of the structures on Cape San Blas are multi-story, and the number just keeps growing.

So, on Friday, members of South Gulf came together at the Port St. Joe High School football field to complete some exercises they hope will help prepare them for the increasing height of houses and buildings they have to respond to.

“This is a dirty, dangerous, blue collar job, and it always will be,” said Barrett. “But this is what the taxpayers expect from us. This is what they’re paying for, and to meet those expectations, we have to train.”

It was not the first time the SGFR firefighters gathered to practice on the stadium’s steps, and it likely won’t be the last.

As firefighters filled a hose, then took turns carrying it up the steps in groups of three, many remarked that the experience helped to put into perspective the potential obstacles faced with multi-story structure fires.

For firefighters and other first responders, large, multi-story structures present greater hazards when they are called to respond to them – including increased fire load, larger search area for possible victims and limited escape routes.

Full fire gear itself can weigh upwards of 60 pounds, a standard fire hose weighs about 40 pounds per every 50 feet, and a gallon of water weighs about 8.33 pounds. 

While the firefighters had to be careful not to overheat while performing the drills in June weather, a structure fire reaches temperatures upwards of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Barrett said a firefighter in good shape will only be able to actively fight fire for a maximum of about 15 minutes before needing to rehydrate and rest in a real-world situation.

SGFR is expecting the delivery of a new ladder truck in the coming weeks, which will help them to respond to taller structure fires, but the training is still an important component of maintaining a prepared firefighting force.

“We train to save lives, ours and yours,” said Barrett.SGFR is a volunteer fire department, and all firefighters within the department are not paid for their services. Those interested in volunteering may call (850) 227-7338.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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