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When two Sedona Fire District firefighters started Rapid Intervention Company Operations training Sept. 17, 86 firefighters nationwide had died in 2007.
By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers

When two Sedona Fire District firefighters started Rapid Intervention Company Operations training Sept. 17, 86 firefighters nationwide had died in 2007.

By Sept. 21, the last day of training, 94 had died.

“Just in the week that we were in class we lost another eight,” SFD Captain Paul Lindfors said.

Lindfors and firefighter Travis McElwee are the first SFD firefighters to attend the training aimed at keeping firefighters safe while on the job and equipping them with the knowledge to get out of dangerous situations.

“It was the toughest and best training I’ve had since I’ve been a firefighter,” Lindfors said.

From busting through a wall to escape a burning house in complete darkness to climbing up drywall by punching in holds, each drill prepared the firefighters for a situation that could happen to them, and did happen to another firefighter.

All of the training was based on actual emergencies in which firefighters died, according to Lindfors.

The instructors watched those deaths.

“These guys have a lot of emotion tied up in it,” Lindfors said.

Firefighters from cities such as Chicago and New York City who had been in the fire service for over 20 years and lost their men in the line of duty taught Lindfors and McElwee what to do when things go wrong.

The training prepares firefighters to be part of a rapid intervention crew, which SFD doesn’t currently have.

Rapid intervention crews are traditionally associated with ladder companies, according to Lindfors. SFD’s new 100-foot ladder truck will arrive soon and SFD plans to build a rapid intervention crew around it.

The crews will be responsible for fire scene safety and constantly monitoring what firefighters heading into the blaze are doing.

The rapid intervention crew is one more addition to SFD’s areas of expertise. Currently, SFD has firefighters trained and equipped for technical rescue, swift water rescue, confined space rescue and dealing with hazardous materials.

Now, SFD wants to build a rapid intervention crew for when it does respond to fires.

“Some of us have to specialize in certain areas so we have that all around better department,” Lindfors said.

Firefighters who do serve special needs do so on an as-needed basis. When special operations aren’t needed, they work on the line responding to typical calls. But, when they’re needed, they bring a higher level of training and knowledge to the scene.

Lindfors and McElwee are the only SFD firefighters who received training to date, so Lindfors said SFD will first look to simply put good firefighters on the crew.

Until more firefighters can receive similar training, it will be up to Lindfors and McElwee to share their knowledge.

“I was able to bring a lot of information back,” McElwee said.

The training opened both men’s eyes to the lack of training and knowledge they had before going into the program.

“Upon going in to this course, I really felt like I was prepared to rescue anyone,” Lindfors said.

Now, he is.

Trista Steers can be reached at 282-7795, Ext. 129, or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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