By SAM SCOTT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Fifteen minutes in a burning building was plenty for Santa Rosa City Councilman Scott Bartley to confirm he was never destined for a career in firefighting.
“I felt like a loaf of French bread in an oven,” a sweat-drenched Bartley said after exiting the Santa Rosa Fire Department’s live-burn training structure on West College Avenue. “This is a job I would never do.”
Bartley was one of 20 civilian leaders who geared up like firefighters Saturday for Fire Ops 101, an day-long event hosted by departments from Santa Rosa, Bennett Valley, Petaluma and Rincon Valley as well as Santa Rosa Firefighters Local 1401.
Participants, including Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt, Petaluma Councilwoman Tiffany Renee and Santa Rosa City Councilman Gary Wysocky, climbed ladders, sliced car roofs and donned respirators, all while wearing full turnouts.
It’s the fourth such event and the first since 2009, union president Jack Thomas said. The purpose was to give local leaders the chance to walk in their boots to get a better idea of what firefighters do, how they do it and why, he said.
In the live burn, for example, a blazing pyre of hay, pallets and newspaper forced the rookies ever closer to the ground to maintain visibility inside the tiny smoke-choked structure.
But when firefighters opened a hatch in the roof the thick haze sucked out, showing why firefighters so often attack the roof and why ladder trucks matter.
“You can’t really explain it,” Thomas said. “You have to come out and see what it is we do.”
The event was staffed by approximately 50 firefighters, 10 of whom were on-duty; the rest were volunteers, Thomas said. Most participants seemed fascinated with the peek into firefighters’ lives.
“It’s getting a little closer to the danger they put themselves in,” said Santa Rosa City Councilman John Sawyer after humming a Herb Albert tune to ease his fears while climbing to the top of an 11-story ladder. “You’ve got to be in shape to be doing this work.”
You can reach Staff Writer Sam Scott at 521-5431 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.