Keeping the chaos away: Chelsea firefighters participate in training exercises

CHELSEA – Chelsea Fire and Rescue is available to assist the city’s residents whenever an emergency arises, and the department’s firefighters complete training continuously to keep their rescue skills sharp.

But in addition to assisting residents, firefighters need to know how to come to each other’s aid during calls if necessary, and special training exercises are helping to prepare them for different scenarios.

“This is kind of like in-house training,” Chelsea Fire Chief Joe Lee said. “We do this weekly on all three shifts. It’s similar to team-building type stuff.”

Lee said his firefighters have begun several weeks of rapid intervention training, or RIT, at a vacant house the city owns off Shelby County 47.

In good weather, they spend about two hours three mornings a week running through various scenarios, such as a firefighter becoming trapped inside a burning structure.

“They get used to working together and communicating with each other,” Lee said. “It gets them comfortable in their gear. The more they wear it, the more comfortable they get in it.”

Lee said they use a smoke machine and other devices to replicate the visibility challenges in a real fire.

“In a fire, you can’t see very well, so we try to train in similar situations,” he said. “The more you do something, the better you get at it. When they go on an actual call, they fall back on their training. It’s all designed to keep the chaos away.”

Lee said the department’s RIT also familiarizes newer firefighters with Alabama Fire College’s 40-hour RIT class.

“We give them a basic overview of that class,” Lee said. “It helps them understand what their role is. Each person has a role to play, and the more we can play those roles together, the more organized it is.”

Lee said the department will rotate through different places in the city for training.

“We won’t always be in that house,” he said. “We will be moving around to different places. We’re always doing something every week.”