Battling blazes in city of skyscrapers

Mon Aug 29, 2011 11:29am EDT
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By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Just weeks before the 10th anniversary of the air attacks on the World Trade Center, New York firefighters gave politicians and journalists a glimpse into what it is like to battle blazes in the skyscraper city.

It involves crawling around in the smoke and dark on a wet cement floor, drenched in sweat and clad in a bunker suit, mask and helmet and with an oxygen tank strapped to your back.

The smoke in the drills is white, or "Hollywood" smoke, nothing like the black, chemically-laced cloud of a real fire.

"If you don't have your wits about you, you can see how easy it is to get lost. Most of our training is about developing a kinetic sense of where you are," said Lieutenant Mike Cacciola, director of physical training.

The scenarios are varied and sometimes deadly and brutal.

On a bombed-out bus, there are dummies of adults and children, bleeding or without limbs. Captain Paul Nugent explained that setting priorities for victims is vital.

"Tilt his head. If he takes a breath, we take him out," he explained.

Victims of bio- or chemical attacks are referred to as "sludgems," according to Lieutenant Anna Schermerhorn-Collins, adding that firefighters are trained to spot the symptoms -- salivation, tears, urination, defecation, gastrointestinal upset, vomiting and constriction of the pupil of the eye.   Continued...

<p>Firefighters and other dignitaries, including Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano (4th L), 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels (5th L) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (6th L), watch as the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Ladder Company 3 fire truck, which was partially destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, is lowered into an opening in the World Trade Center site below ground level, where it will become part of the permanent installation exhibit in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York July 20, 2011. REUTERS/Seth Wenig/Pool</p>