CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – Firefighters assigned to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, joined others across the Department of Defense in hosting a Fire Prevention Week event to teach safety tips and raise awareness of fire hazards.
Fire Prevention Week was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed more than 250 people and burned more than 2,000 acres. Yet fire prevention remains a relevant campaign. According to statistics provided by the Area Support Group-Kuwait Fire Department, in the U.S. in 2010, someone died in a fire every 169 minutes and someone was injured every 30 minutes.
The Fire Prevention Week event was designed to bring the firefighters and service members here together. It featured a static display of fire and safety vehicles, the Firefighter Challenge obstacle course, a raffle and barbecue.
“We try and interact with our community as much as we can, through inspections and training, but this is a good opportunity to get out and meet people we might not otherwise see,” said Capt. Gary French, ASG-Kuwait fire department. “I hope that they enjoy themselves and get to know the firefighters so that next month, if they have a question, they remember that they met the firefighters and they were good guys, and they feel comfortable to stop by and ask that question.”
The highlight of the event was the Firefighter Challenge. There was individual and team competition. Participants had to don the firefighter suit, helmet, gloves, boots and Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and then move through a timed course with hose challenges, tire flips and mannequin carries. The participants did not finish the course until they knocked over a cone with a jet of water.
French knew the course would attract attention. He said service members are naturally drawn to physical trials and competitive events.
“People always learn best when they’re having fun. A lot of them out here are really gunning for our numbers, they really want to contend,” said French. Thirty individual participants and six teams competed for medals and free fire department T-shirts.
One of the competitors, Capt. Billi Blaschke, a battle captain with 135th Theater Sustainment Command, said the challenge gave her a newfound respect for firefighters.
“I’ve never had that gear on before. I didn’t know what it was going to be like,” said Blaschke. “It was tremendously hard. The normal stuff you do every day, when you put that gear on -- it’s a totally different game.”
For her, the tire flip was the most difficult obstacle of the course. The additional weight of the SCBA, thirty extra pounds, and the loss of dexterity because of the gloves, made it much harder to manage the tire.
“[I did it] for the challenge. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m definitely going to be more mindful of the safety aspects too, in particular how many items I plug into one outlet,” said Blaschke.