Defiance city officials are being given a chance today to see an emergency response through the eyes of firefighters and EMTs.

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 918’s “Feel the Heat” program was planned this morning at the city’s wastewater plant on Ohio 281, next to General Motors.

A letter inviting officials and the media to the event described it as a “workshop for elected officials to become more familiar with their fire and rescue division by hands-on experience.” Ohio 1st District Sen. Rob McColley also was invited along with Ohio 82nd House District Rep. Craig Riedel of Defiance.

Officials who decided to participate were given the option of observing or suiting up with fire equipment — wearing some 100 pounds of gear — to participate in a couple of scenarios.

For example, city firefighters planned to use a portable steel training facility to simulate a house fire. Participants outfitted in firefighter gear and breathing apparatus will enter the facility where a fire will be built with straw and wood, thus allowing them to “feel the heat” of a real fire.

The fire will be allowed to grow as it might in a typical situation before being suppressed by firefighters.

A search and rescue for a fire victim inside the training facility also is planned.

The day’s other scenarios are scheduled to include a simulated vehicle crash rescue along with a “mega code” response for a heart attack victim.

“The IAFF has been pushing this for the last couple years,” explained city firefighter Mike Harris, who helped coordinate the events. “It’s a really good experience for the city officials, firefighters and union to get a better working relationship with each other.”

One benefit, noted Harris, is familiarizing officials who make budgetary decisions with fire department equipment and services they may need to provide.

“I told them (firefighters) whatever they need we would do in support,” said Defiance Fire Chief Bill Wilkins. “I think it’s a very good opportunity for all parties involved to see what we do. Their (officials’) side is managing money and looking out for the best interests of the community. I’m very happy with the staff for bringing it to light and moving it forward.

“The whole concept is educational,” explained Wilkins. “I’m going to do a part at the beginning where I am going to talk about an officer’s responsibility. What action is he going to do when gets to the scene?”

One official who planned to suit up for the training was Defiance Mayor Mike McCann.

“I think it’s a terrific idea,” said McCann. “Too often we pass judgment on people without ever walking in their shoes, and this gives us the opportunity to do that.”

Noble Township Fire Department will be providing a fire tanker for the exercise, according to Wilkins.

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