Picture this - A fire breaks out at a Panama City Beach condominium. You scramble to grab your family and your possessions... and escape. As you run down the stairs and out the burning building, the men and women of the fire department are bravely rushing in.
In between those acts of valor, it takes a lot of training. From the heavy equipment, to the physically draining tasks, it's not easy to do what these men do, especially when you never know what's next.
On a cool fall morning, Under the watchful eye of Captain Joe Cocco, members of the Panama City Beach Fire Rescue are engaging in crucial firefighter training. For this session It's salvage and overhaul.
"They're looking for hidden fire, so a lot of the time we'll go into where the fire area was, and right around that area we'll be pulling down ceilings, making holes in walls," captain Cocco said.
Armed with 65 pounds of gear, including boots, gloves, a helmet, and that all important oxygen tank, News 13 and reporter Jason Hackett ventured to find out just how physical it really is.
With the help of our fellow firefighters, we ventured into the empty house just off of Back Beach Road, and started picking at the walls with our tools.
"Very important to have teamwork throughout the day because in a moments notice, each one of these firefighters might have to rely on one another to save not only people's lives, but they might have to save their own lives.
Teamwork is a big key, but self preservation is another. As we worked our way through the house, fatigue set in.
"The biggest challenge is conserving their air, controlling their breathing, because they're doing a lot of physical activity," Captain Cocco said.
Before long my oxygen was out, and we got the call.
In just under 10 minutes, we experienced one of the most physically demanding exercises around. In a real world scenario, their stay is much longer, and has gotten more risky over the years.
Firefighters say the process of fighting fires has changed over time. Fires burn hotter and faster. They have to change their methods in order to deal with the new types of material. Which is why they continue to work hard and train their minds and bodies for extreme scenarios.
"At a moment's notice, you're not really sure what's going to happen," Captain Cocco said. "So you have to be in top notch shape."
Truer words have never been spoken, when minutes after the drill a sudden emergency call for a rollover accident demands the firefighter's attention...
To read about how firefighters responded to the accident, as well as their search and rescue drill, read Part 2 of 'Behind The Fire Line' here: http://www.wmbb.com/story/20049111/news-13-special-report-behind-the-fire-line-part-2