British Columbia·Photos

B.C. politicians, government workers face the heat in firefighter simulation

Jumping straight into burning buildings and rescuing trapped patients from cars, participants got a first-hand look at the hazards faced by firefighters in the field.

Firefighter training held to show people real-life hazards that crews face

Politicians and bureaucrats work as a team to put out a real car fire. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Several B.C. politicians, government workers and members of the media suited up in firefighter's equipment Monday to learn how to put out fires, cut open cars and rescue patients in Vancouver.

Many of the participants got to experience what it's like to fight a fire in a dark, enclosed space while wearing heavy firefighter gear like masks, air tanks, boots and jackets.

"Well, I did a couple of squat thrusts this morning...but uh, I'm pretty soft. It's going to be tough for me," said B.C. Premier John Horgan, who was one of more than 20 people participating in the event.

"Well, I did a couple of squat thrusts this morning," said B.C. Premier John Horgan, who participated in the training for his first time. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Vancouver Fire battalion Chief John Mantei said the event is a good opportunity for the public to understand some of the hazards firefighters can face at work.

"We deal with a lot of meth labs and grow-ops," said Mantei. "Some of those grow-ops and meth labs are booby-trapped to protect them from other people trying to gain access to them."​

A training officer walks participants through how to use the different hose spray patterns to protect themselves. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Mantei said the physical and mental exhaustion that comes with this kind of work can take a toll on crews.

"Obviously, a lot of PTSD is stuff we're dealing with," he said. "That's a hazard of this job and for any first responder."

"I do think they come away from here with a better appreciation of the manpower, risk and teamwork involved," said Mantei. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Some participants said they didn't expect the event to be so physically exhausting.

"I now have a better understanding of just...the pure physical strength they need. That tool, I couldn't carry it by myself,"  said WorksafeBC director Jennifer Leyen, after using the Jaws of Life to cut open a car door.

"I think that the men...and the women that are doing this job have to be incredibly strong."

WorkSafeBC director Jennifer Lan said she has dealt with firefighters' work-related claims for more than 20 years. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)
In an exercise simulating a roof or confined space, CBC videojournalist Gian-Paolo Mendoza tries to untangle himself from wires while blindfolded. (CBC)
The event is held every two years by the B.C. Professional Firefighters Association (BCPFFA) (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)


Gian-Paolo Mendoza

Video Producer

Gian-Paolo (GP) Mendoza is a video producer and drone operator with CBC Vancouver. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @gpsmendoza.