MERIDIAN Dressed in firefighter turnouts and wearing an oxygen mask fed from a tank on her back, Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd crouched on her knees and waited for the signal Saturday morning to enter a burning building.
"You are going to have fun. I promise it," Capt. Rob Christensen of the Boise Fire Department said, as de Weerd kept tight hold of the nozzle end of the fire hose.
As the door to the Meridian Fire Department's training facility on East Franklin Road opened, de Weerd crawled on her knees and went inside the smoke-filled room. She and three other firefighters sprayed the hay-fed fire with water and emerged unscathed.
"You go in there and you can't see anything," de Weerd said. "You quickly learn the value of the people behind you in carrying the load in dragging the hose."
This was the fifth year of the training exercise meant to educate politicians and policymakers on the equipment, training and safety requirements needed to fight a fire. The Meridian mayor was one of 20 politicians, community leaders and reporters to take part in an annual training day sponsored by the Professional Firefighters of Idaho and the Boise and Meridian fire departments.
Eighty firefighters representing 15 departments from around the state took part.
"It's a great way to show them how we do our job," said Ron Davies, a Pocatello firefighter who serves as president of the Professional Firefighters of Idaho.
Many people base their perceptions of firefighting on what they see on television. In reality, it's much more complicated and labor intensive, Davies said.
Participants moved among four different stations, from the burning building to a roof fire to a four-story rescue operation to extricating a car accident victim.
Brad Allen, a commissioner for the Nampa Fire Protection District, summed up the feelings of many participants.
"One of the dangers of being a politician or a commissioner is you look at number. Numbers become the thing," Allen said. "The main took in firefighting is firefighters and we need to equip him or her with the best equipment. It's amazing how much work they do."
John Sowell: 377-6423