Firefighters suit up -- for dodgeball

- It was one of the more unusual games of dodgeball you’ll ever see: Firefighters in full gear, playing a friendly game.  

But there was a serious lesson in Friday’s match. The new recruits had to learn how to function wearing 70 pounds of gear. 

“It’s an air-consumption drill, but it’s also getting them used to wearing an air pack,” explained John Klinefelter, an assistant chief with Clearwater Fire Rescue.   “They are wearing these air packs into some of the most dangerous environments that we are going to send them into. It’s imperative that they are comfortable wearing these air packs at all times.”

Those 70 pounds of gear also include bunker pants, boots, a turnout coat, bailout gear, gloves, a helmet, a hood, and a mask.

“First time I’ve ever done this.  I think it’s a really cool way of getting used to your equipment,” offered firefighter paramedic James Humphrey.  “It’s still work.  It might look like it’s fun – and it was fun – but you’re still working.”

“It was different, compared to being on the training grounds and working for 10 or 15 minutes,” agreed Kenny Sweitezer.  “I think this simulates being in a structure fire very well.”

The 12 recruits began their 10-week training schedule this week.  

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