Bay Area firefighters participate in special training funded by FEMA

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KTVU) - Calls of mayday rang out from the training ground in Santa Rosa but it was all just a part of special training funded by FEMA and hosted by the Santa Rosa Fire Department.

Firefighters could be seen pulling their way out of a tangle of wires, sliding down hoses and ladders from two story windows and crawling on their hands and knees out of a darkened room.

This is all part of the Fire Ground Survival program - a four day intensive training put on by the International Association of Firefighters.

The instructors have come from across the country. Captain Anthony Soffa from the Burbank Fire Department says, "Firefighters, regardless of the color of the engine you arrive in, we're all cut from that same cloth. We all made that same investment of life for life."

But firefighters say it's not just about saving the lives of others, it is also about making sure they do everything they can to also protect their own.

Each scenario during the training was based on a real life line of duty death. The wires that firefighters had to crawl through and escape were designed with the deaths of two Memphis firefighters in mind.

"It's unknown what exactly occurred," says Soffa "but the bodies of the firefighters were found entangled in ceiling wires nine feet from the door."

Firefighters who bailed out of windows onto ladders and down hoses were reminded of "the death of three FDNY firefighters they had to make a jump essentially from an upper floor in a tenement building when the conditions worsened and they had no equipment in place to make the deployment " explains Soffa.

They are also taught how to avoid dangerous situations and how to teach these skills to others.

Santa Rosa Fire Division Chief Ken Sebastiani, says "we invited everybody in the North Bay counties we have 25 people in the class."

Firefighters from Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, Rancho Adobe, Petaluma, Sonoma Valley and Kenwood all took part and say all the departments will benefit from this training.

"We needed the training," says Stavros Kalogirou who added it's not just about me being safe "it's being able to pass it on to other so they can go home."

Kalogirou led the effort to get the grant to do the training and says when asked why he wanted it so much, he replied, "honestly what kept going through my head is that I want to go home and see my family."

Organizers say the goal is to save lives and get the firefighters home safely every day.