Village of Villa Park
May 4, 2015

Where there’s smoke, there’s the Villa Park Citizens Fire Academy

Villa Park Citizens Fire Academy participants learn how to use self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).
All photos and videos courtesy of Al Stasch.
Fire fighter mask

Greetings, Villa Park!

As I listened to each of my breaths through the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and stepped carefully down the stairs into a smoke-filled basement wearing about 60 pounds of protective gear, I felt just a bit more like Darth Vader than a firefighter.

Week three of the Villa Park Citizens Fire Academy (CFA) granted me the opportunity to navigate my way through a smoke-filled room with only a fire hose as my guide. My fellow participants and I practiced turning on and breathing through the SCBA, which is not very difficult in theory, but takes some getting used to.

Villa Park Citizens Fire Academy gears up.

As the fire station basement filled with synthetic smoke, we geared up – which let me tell you, can be a process. Good thing we had a couple of pros to show us how it’s done. Then, one by one we made our way to the basement to experience the challenge of finding our way around a smoke-filled room. Unlike CFA participants who had the chance to see the room before it was filled with smoke, firefighters do not have that liberty. They arrive at fires prepared for anything because they don’t know ahead of time what obstacles they will face.

Firefighters carry thermal imaging cameras (TIC) to help them when smoke blocks their ability to see. When I arrived in the basement, I could not see anything through the thick white smoke, but looking through the TIC I was able to see several firefighters hidden by the smoke, watching in case I needed assistance. The camera allows firefighters to locate people using their body temperature, which is visible on the camera even through thick smoke or in the dark.

Lt. Gilliland demonstrates how a thermal imaging camera works.

Once I focused my eyes on the fire hose I was able to crawl through the basement despite all the twists and turns, but the experience definitely gave me a new sense of respect for the firefighters who manage to save lives while navigating unfamiliar places with little to no visibility. You can see what Citizens Fire Academy participants saw during the smoke drill by watching this video.

Now that I have survived our first hands-on activity, I’m excited for the upcoming challenges! If you’re interested in learning about firefighter operations, be sure to register the next time the academy is offered.


Mari Grigaliunas

Village of Villa Park
Public Information Officer
Office: 630-592-6082

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