News 13 Special Report: Behind The Fire Line, Part 2 - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

News 13 Special Report: Behind The Fire Line, Part 2

Posted: Updated:
Panama City Beach, Fla. -

They are real life super heroes that show up at a moment's notice. At times firefighters may be taken for granted, but in many instances it's their hard work, dedication and training that make the difference between life and death.

In part 2, we take you inside the world of search and rescue, maybe the most important aspect of what they do.

First, as we showed you at the end of part 1, firefighters have to be ready in an instant.

Minutes after we finished our first exercise, a call comes in to first responders. A vehicle occupied by a young couple ran off the road, clipping a nearby power line support cable, and rolling over. The car missed the pole by just a few feet.

"It's a regular occurrence, accidents happen a pretty good bit of the time," said Lt. Justin Busch with Panama City Fire Rescue. "Spring break, more traffic, and all that good stuff really bumps up our numbers."

Both we're taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The sudden call to potential tragedy was just another example of how firefighters never know what to expect.

Adjusting to the unexpected is a major theme of the next training we took part in.

"Search and rescue is paramount, it's our number one priority at a fire," Lt. Busch said.

The situation they laid out at the practice site is an example of the worst case scenario. Several rooms, each had their own pitfalls. It was almost like a house of horrors.

"Homes, commercial buildings, they have dropped ceilings and wires fall," Lt. Busch said.

Once again, we go 'Behind the Fire Line,' with 25 year Veteran Lt. Greg Rincon. This time we gear up without one vital tool - or vision. For this drill, our eyes are obscured with a special mask. On our hands and knees, we make our way in

The first challenge, getting our breathing apparatus connected, wasn't as physical as it was mental.

"The ball may be disconnected, the straps may be entangled, and you have to put it on in the dark," Lt. Rincon said.

A few frustrating minutes later, we got them up and going. As we began, we relied on our senses and each other for guidance.

We entered each room through a small hole, each one a different shape and size. A tangle of wires awaited us in one particular room. With the wires being so easy to get caught in, it was more than just a test of patience.

"Biggest obstacle is maintaining your air, and maintaining your composure," Lt. Rincon said.

Challenge after challenge we pressed on, the entire time keeping an open line of communication with Lt.. Rincon. By the time we got to the last obstacle the low air alarm was blaring, but we were determined to finish.

After crawling through the last cramped cabinet, the realization that freedom was near set in

"It's always nice when you get through to know that you made it all the way through and you got out the door," Lt. Rincon said.

Whether it's for a newcomer, or an old pro like Lt. Rincon, this benefit the drill provides goes beyond any fancy equipment.

"It's really just a confidence builder for fire fighters, doesn't matter the years of experience," Lt. Busch. "Just confidence is what we're looking for."

Confidence comes in handy, because whether it's a burning building or an accident victim, you never know when the next call is coming in.

Special thanks to the entire Panama City Beach Fire Department for allowing us to get a look at these special drills. As a result of their training, preparation, and a little luck, the Beach fire department tells News 13 in their history, they have not lost one man while on duty.