FIREFIGHTER FOR A DAY: Superior FD shows public what it’s like to be on the squad

The City of Superior Fire Department does everything from putting out flames to doing CPR to save patients.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 10:14 AM CDT
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SUPERIOR, WI. (Northern News Now) - The Superior Fire Department does everything from putting out flames to doing CPR to save patients.

In 2022, the department responded to 4,344 calls.

According to them, on average, they respond to about 4,000 calls a year.

Before responding to a call, you have to suit up to protect yourself from the burning hot fire.

“The first thing I’m grabbing is my hood,” Charlee Edwards, a firefighter with the department, said.

Firefighters need to respond to calls within two minutes, giving them little room for error before getting on the truck.

Mitchell successfully putting all the gear on within the two minute time frame
Mitchell successfully putting all the gear on within the two minute time frame(Northern News Now)

Their base layer is a hood, pants, boots, jacket, gloves, and a helmet.

Once their suits are on, they’re ready to put out flames.

“We want to give you that sense of what we do, there’s no smoke, but you’ll feel the darkness, you’ll feel the heat, you’ll see the flames,” Brandon Cardenas, a Captain with the department, said.

The heat is intense, practically washing over you like a wave.

The Superior Fire Department normally uses between nine to 15 crew members on a structure fire.

They’re one of the few municipal departments nationwide that handle industrial fires, like ones at refineries, for example.

Structure fires can include things like businesses or homes.

The firefighters wear heavy-breathing equipment that pumps oxygen into a mask that is suctioned onto their face.

From there, it’s go time.

Superior firefighters training to put out flames
Superior firefighters training to put out flames(Northern News Now)

“Get down, get down,” Cardenas said while other firefighters held the hose to put out flames in a controlled unit.

While fires are the most well-known things a squad fights, most of their calls are medical.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5,” Gus Abrahamson counted as he did CPR on a dummy.

Last year, 72% of the calls the department responded to were medical calls.

“Us in the fire service we call it a code,” Ja’lon Sventek, a firefighter, said.

One of the most critical actions both Sventek and Abrahamson have to take is CPR.

If they’re in a more rural area, ambulances take a while to respond.

“Sometimes [an ambulance] can take 20 to 30 minutes to arrive on scene, so that’s on us as Superior Fire to work a code for 30 minutes,” Sventek said.

Superior FD training on CPR doll
Superior FD training on CPR doll(Northern News Now)

Doing CPR is an art form and hard work.

The main goal is to make sure you’re giving good compressions.

“A lot of people lean over, you’re going to wear yourself out by doing that,” Abrahamson said.

Those compressions can lead to good outcomes for people.

“CPR works on patients,” Sventek said.

While medical calls make up a bulk of their work, sometimes, they need to perform high-flying rescues or even ones that are below water.

“So this scenario is something we see averaging once or twice a year,” Ben Dvorak, a firefighter, said, referencing a specific training.

The Superior Fire Department does between 500 and 600 confined space rescues a year.

A lot of those rescues happen on large ships, unique to the Twin Ports.

“Navigating through that ship with somebody that’s injured can be extremely challenging,” Dvorak said.

While those rescues can happen below the water line, others happen almost seemingly in the air.

Mitchell in the FD's rescue lift to practice a tight space rescue
Mitchell in the FD's rescue lift to practice a tight space rescue(Northern News Now)

“[Patients} crawl off the main deck of the bridge and get to the substructure underneath, rescuing those individuals, the lift is not super high, and it would be windy and crazy, cars,” Dvorak said.

Rescues may take a lot of time and precision, and so does getting patients out of vehicles from a bad accident.

“There you go,” Jon Webber, a firefighter said, while shattering a car window.

Firefighters need to be able to get into a car to get a patient out if they’re injured.

“We’re taking this whole door off so it’s alright,” he said.

Webber and his team use big, heavy tools, known as the “jaws of life” to break windows, rip open doors and move dashboards.

Superior FD demonstrates how they use the "Jaws of Life"
Superior FD demonstrates how they use the "Jaws of Life"(Northern News Now)

“Perfect,” Webber said. “And just like that, we got the door off”

Saving lives one job at a time, that’s the firefighter spirit.

The Superior Fire Department is currently looking for more people to join the squad.

For more information about the Superior Fire Department, you can visit their website here.

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