BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — Broken Arrow is celebrating one of its firefighters. He’s become the department’s first Smoke Diver.
The Oklahoma Smoke Diver Association is one of only three Smoke Diver programs in the United States.
Oklahoma’s program is in its second year and now 11 more firefighters have the designation including Broken Arrow’s own Wade Ambrose.
Becoming a certified Smoke Diver is all about rigorous training and teaching firefighters to push past their breaking point to become better at their jobs.
“Bad stuff usually happens later on in the fire. It’s not when everybody is fresh. It’s usually when people are tired and start making bad decision. [The program is] designed to make people better at critical thinking and performing under high stress when they are physically taxed,” Wade Ambrose said.
Before the program, Ambrose and a few Tulsa firefighters went through a 16 week training program just to prepare.
The course itself lasts only 6 days but each day participants train for about 10 hours.
“It teaches you a lot about the job but it also kind of teaches you about yourself as far as how far you can push yourself physically and mentally,” he said. "It showed me that when I feel like I am completely spent and can't move another foot that I am really just getting started."
Everyday they start with physical training, then do an obstacle course, then a run, and finally the real training begins.
“They’ll do real smoke and have a victim in a building. They’ll say 'Okay the victim was last seen on the second floor. Enter through this window. Okay go find them,'” Ambrose said. "Initially you are not that good at it but they kind of teach you techniques and you continue to do it, you get your practice in. Then by Thursday, Friday they’re allowing you to get your team together and they just give you a little rundown of what it is and then you make the tactical decisions.”
Ambrose says this program is good because while the number of fires they respond to is down, the fires are more dangerous.
“Now more than ever is important to have high intensity realistic fire training,” he said.
22 firefighters started the program but only half of them completed it.
Ambrose says going through it was an incredible experience and he would like to see more firefighters do the same.
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