Las Cruces fire training tower provides numerous benefits
LAS CRUCES — The Las Cruces Fire Department may have found recruits Saturday.
The El Paso Rhinos, a junior hockey team competing in the Western States Hockey League, didn’t play a game Saturday. Instead, the 24-member team boarded its bus and drove to the city Fire Department’s training facility, 9201 Zia Boulevard, across the street from Las Cruces International Airport.
The team, and even its vice president of operations, participated in the same agility training exercise the department uses to determine potential candidates for the city’s fire training academy. A series of nine different tests must be completed in less than 8 minutes, 48 seconds. Las Cruces firefighters are regularly tested and must complete the exercises in 6:56 or less.
Every Rhino, who was between the ages of 17 to 21, completed the test in times that were easily within the time allotted.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Evan Camba, who plays forward for the Rhinos. “It’s cool we got the opportunity to to do this.”
The test had special meaning for Camba. His father is a fire training officer in Orange, California, and Camba said if a career in hockey doesn’t work out he would consider becoming a firefighter.
“I have a lot of respect and admiration for my father, and his love of his job is why I would want to follow him.”
The test included carrying a fire hose, with water in it for 75 feet; dragging a 155-pound dummy about 50 feet; crawling about 50 yards through the training facility’s fire tower; carrying an iron object weighing about the same as the “Jaws of Life” for 50 yards and then climbing up and down three flights of stairs with a 35-pound air tank on your back.
“It’s definitely a challenge, but I got through it,” said Drake Cartwright, who also plays for the Rhinos. “It definitely takes a toll on your legs.”
Cartwright finished the test in 3:36, and Camba in 4:14. But with their competitive natures in overdrive, Camba and Cartwright decided to run the course again. The second time, Camba lowered his time to 3:06, but Cartwright couldn’t improve his initial 3:36.
“These were all excellent times,” said Lt. Ron Schulmeister, training officer for the Las Cruces Fire Department. “Everyone’s time would have qualified them as recruits, and those times would have all been within acceptable qualifying times our firefighters have to meet. It was a very good effort by all of them.”
Tyler Deloach, vice president of operations for the Rhinos, said the players’ age and their rigorous training obviously helped them meet agility testing standards.
“We like to keep them active,” said Deloach, who added she once considered becoming a firefighter. “We have tremendous respect for all the men and women who, as firefighters, regularly have to train like this. Being here and seeing what our players have to go through to try to match those efforts gives you an entirely new perspective of incredible physical and mental strength these firefighters have to have.”
When the hockey players finished Schulmeister quickly got to the point.
“How many of you might want to be firefighters,” he said. Six of the players, Camba included, raised their hands.
Firefighters and probationary firefighters who are attending the Las Cruces Fire Department training academy, said they were impressed with the hockey players’ abilities. Some of the firefighters added the agility training done by city firefighters requires they be equipped in complete gear, with helmets and breathing apparatus. Schulmeister said there are some city firefighters who are ability to complete the agility test in less than three minutes while wearing full firefighting gear.
“That’s incredible,” he said.
The city’s fire training facility was opened in 2015 , shortly after the city opened a new substation adjacent to the Las Cruces airport, on the city’s West Mesa. The benefits of a fire training facility are substantial.
“Having this facility is so very important,” Schulmeister said. “Before this, the fire department was conducting training at several locations in the city where we weren’t able to conduct or simulate live fire training. But since this facility has been opened, the city has lowered its ISO (Insurance Service Office) rating to ‘1,’ the lowest rating possible. That benefits everyone in the city who has to purchase fire insurance. It costs less because of that low rating.”
The three-story training facility enables firefighters to simulate conditions of home or apartment fires, similar situations that could occur in strip malls, and fires involving propane tanks, dumpsters, and vehicles. Schulmeister also said other public safety agencies, such as Border Patrol and adult probation services can also use the facility for exercises in apprehending suspects who have barricaded themselves in buildings.
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