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As promised, day 2 of our STCW 95 course at the University of Trinidad and Tobago was all practical. After getting the class of 11 suited up in complete fire fighting kit (pants, jackets, boots, gloves, helmets), we made our way outside. In spite of the fact that the day was a bit overcast and thus a tad cooler than some others, we were still all perspiring like crazy. The school wisely had cases of water available for us and encouraged us to drink continually.

We started out by learning how to carry, deploy and roll up hoses, how to connect the nozzles to them and also how to properly hold onto them when fighting fires. After that bit, we moved right into some live fire exercises, starting by putting them out using the four basic types of fire extinguishers (water, dry powder, foam and carbon dioxide). The really big fires came after this. As teams (prior to this the class was separated into 3 teams with my friend Scott and I being split up) we used the large hoses to approach and extinguish a big diesel fire. Exciting, and hot!

Following a welcome lunch break, the really challenging stuff started. This was the “smoke house” section of the course. The university has built a two-tier fire fighting room out of two shipping containers. There are walls and locking doors inside separating it into sections, ladders to go from one level to the other and even a tunnel to crawl through. When a fire is lit inside , and the doors are closed, visibility is, without exaggeration, zero. The only way to move through the structure is by feel. We had been taught on day 1 to feel the walls with the back of our hand and also to use a shuffle step so as to not trip. If all this wasn’t enough, we were all wearing Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (a full face mask similar to SCUBA). I am not ashamed to admit that I felt a few pangs of claustrophobia the first time in there all kitted up with a fire burning and Scott shared that he felt similarly. We both worked through that though and did what we needed to do. After learning how to safely open doors, our teams had to navigate through the smoke house, again by feel alone, and leave through a predetermined exit. In our case, we had to crawl through the tunnel at the far end. None of the three teams did this exercise flawlessly but in the end, we all got it done.

Much respect to those who fight fires for a living. Even the basic training that we completed was challenging. Fighting real out-of-control fires on a regular basis is scary stuff!

There are plenty more photos from the training on our Facebook Page!


  1. Mike, my hat’s off to you and Scott for completing this part of the training. I too had that sick claustrophobic feeling in the black room. My experience was to go in pairs of two to find a body crawling on our hands and knees and feeling the wall just like you say, to find and drag out the “body”. No one wanted to do it with a “girl”. But the guy who went with me, actually sought me out as his partner and we had the best time. Next was the hottest trial of all, putting out an industrial oven fire. I swear I have never been so hot in my whole life, I felt nauseous and wanted to turn and leave the building. I wish you and Scott the best in this training, it’s an awesome experience.

  2. Nice job guys! Thanks for giving us the 411 Mike…and might I add, you both look reeeeeeaaal nice in uniform 😉

  3. Have you seen anything like this for fires?
    looks pretty interesting but I don’t know how it works.

  4. In comparing the UTT to JIBC (Justice Institute of BC) it sure looks to me that UTT has a an excellent set up for training there.

  5. My son was a volunteer firefighter and EMT for many years. His description of training matches yours except that they also had to carry a “body” for 50 ft, and do CPR/rescue breathing, and run with the full turn-out gear carrying heavy hoses. They did similar exercises for fun in competition with one another!

    • Nice. This, of course, was a BASIC program. The university also offers an advanced firefighting course which would no doubt include exercises like that too.

  6. The pictures of the firefighting class really make me sweat! So glad you and Scott teamed up together and learned lots. Now I really feel safe when I board the Rasmus.

  7. […] So go to the local fire hall or Coast Guard dock. See if one or two of the guys would mind swinging by your boat for a beer after work. Ask them things like “if this stove went up, where would be the best place to hit it from?” Or “How could I get this into the battery bay without opening the lid and causing a flare-up?” If you’re really feeling hardcore, ask them if anyone knows where you can take an STCW 95 shipboard firefighting course. […]

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