Kenai Fire Department firefighter Scott Summers leads a group of Kenai River Brown Bears hockey players who are blinded with blackout masks during a tour and training demonstration at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Fire Department firefighter Scott Summers leads a group of Kenai River Brown Bears hockey players who are blinded with blackout masks during a tour and training demonstration at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears get a taste of firefighting

The Kenai River Brown Bears hockey players are used to wearing a lot of gear, but running through the training drills at the Kenai Fire Department still presented a challenge.

Blinded by blackout masks, breathing controlled air, stifled with thick fire protection jackets and pants, three Brown Bears players crawled along the wall of the engine bay at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center at the Kenai Municipal Airport. A piercingly loud chirping ricocheted from the walls of the room, reminding the three “firefighters” that somewhere in the room, a comrade was in trouble.

Blind and on their knees, crawling in a line, they felt their way around the edge of the bay trying to locate him by the sound of the chirping from a Personal Alert Safety System, a device designed to set off an alarm if a firefighter stops moving. The other Brown Bears players watching crowded around as the three crawled toward him, chuckling when they nearly bypassed him by accident.

“Now you have to go back out the way you came, because you don’t know where the door is,” said Kenai Fire Marshal Tommy Carver as the three rescuers converted the straps on the fallen firefighter’s backpack into a harness.

Luckily for them, they didn’t have to haul him all the way back around the bay. The drill ended and they pulled off their masks, laughing at the difficulty of the drill.

“So that’s where we were!” said David Kaplan, who’d led the team of rescuers around the bay.

The Kenai Fire Department took the Kenai River Brown Bears under their wing for the afternoon to show them the basics of firefighting and emergency medical work, running through training drills and taking short rides in the fire engine docked at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center out onto the tarmac. The goal was to introduce them to firefighting as a potential career path, Carver said.

The Brown Bears, a junior hockey league team based in Soldotna, brings young hockey players from around the country to play in Alaska. However, it’s not a direct path to the professional leagues, and the Kenai firefighters gave the players an idea of what response work is like.

Kenai Fire Department does combined emergency medical and fire response, so all responders have to be cross-trained. Firefighter Pete Coots said it can be a tough career because of the graphic nature of scenes they respond to, but it’s important to take care of patients.

“We try to treat them like they’re our family,” he told the players.

There was a fair amount of chuckling and horseplay as some of the players strapped on all the gear and made an attempt at crawling between two tires of one of the engines, meant to simulate a tight spot for firefighters to crawl into. They also got a chance to see other tools firefighters use, including a battery-powered cutter they used to cut up a metal chair.

Firefighters have to work on a tight schedule, too. They may respond to accidents or fires on the Kenai Municipal Airport runways, in which case they have three minutes at most to get gear on and get out on the runway to help, Carver said. However, on the times between calls, it can be a fairly jovial environment as the firefighters complete training and tasks around the stations.

At the end of the day, Kaplan said he enjoyed the experience.

“I definitely have a lot more respect for what (firefighters) do now,” he said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

The members of the Kenai River Brown Bears hockey team watch four of their teammates complete a drill during a tour and training demonstration at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

The members of the Kenai River Brown Bears hockey team watch four of their teammates complete a drill during a tour and training demonstration at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears player David Kaplan (right) leads a line of three players on a “right hand search” drill during a tour and training demonstration at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears player David Kaplan (right) leads a line of three players on a “right hand search” drill during a tour and training demonstration at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears player Gil Garcia wipes away the sweat after removing his mask during a tour and training demonstration at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai River Brown Bears player Gil Garcia wipes away the sweat after removing his mask during a tour and training demonstration at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Fire Marshal Tommy Carver talks to the Kenai River Brown Bears hockey team players during a tour and training demonstratoin at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Fire Marshal Tommy Carver talks to the Kenai River Brown Bears hockey team players during a tour and training demonstratoin at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Fire Marshal Tommy Carver talks to the Kenai River Brown Bears hockey team players during a tour and training demonstratoin at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Fire Marshal Tommy Carver talks to the Kenai River Brown Bears hockey team players during a tour and training demonstratoin at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Two Kenai River Brown Bears players, blinded by blackout firefighting training masks, feel in the dark for each other during a tour and training demonstration at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Two Kenai River Brown Bears players, blinded by blackout firefighting training masks, feel in the dark for each other during a tour and training demonstration at the Kenai Emergency Operations Center on the Kenai Municipal Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Kenai Fire Department firefighters walked the Brown Bears players through some of the training and tools firefighters use to give them an idea of what a career in fire response is like. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

More in News

Golden-yellow birch trees and spruce frame a view of Aurora Lagoon and Portlock Glacier from a trail in the Cottonwood-Eastland Unit of Kachemak Bay State Park off East End Road on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong)
State parks advisory boards accepting applictions

Alaska State Park advisory boards provide state park managers with recommendations on management issues

A recently added port-a-potty is available in the parking lot of Slikok Multi-Use Trails on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Slikok makes sanitation upgrades

A port-a-potty was installed to due to the increased popularity of the trails

Sen. Dan Sullivan speaks at the Kenai Classic Roundtable at Kenai Peninsula College on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, near Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Local students nominated to compete for appointments in military academies

Students interested in pursuing appointment to the military service academies can apply for nomination through their state’s congressional delegation

Kenai resident Barbara Kennedy testifies in support of allowing more city residents to own chickens during a city council meeting on Wednesday, Feb.1, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council bumps back vote on chicken ordinance

The ordinance would allow Kenai residents to keep up to 12 chicken hens on certain lots

Sens. Löki Tobin, D-Anchorage, right, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, and Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, discuss a bill proposing a nearly 17% increase in per-student education funding Wednesday at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini /Juneau Empire)
State Senate bill would bump per-student funding amount by $1,000

If approved, the legislation would bump state education funding by more than $257 million

Recognizable components make up this metal face seen in a sculpture by Jacob Nabholz Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, at the Kenai Art Center, in Kenai, Alaska, as part of Metalwork & Play. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Metalwork gets time to shine

Metal is on showcase this month at the Kenai Art Center

This 2019 aerial photo provided by ConocoPhillips shows an exploratory drilling camp at the proposed site of the Willow oil project on Alaska’s North Slope. The Biden administration issued a long-awaited study on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, that recommends allowing three oil drilling sites in the region of far northern Alaska. The move, while not final, has angered environmentalists who see it as a betrayal of President Joe Biden’s pledges to reduce carbon emissions and promote green energy. (ConocoPhillips via AP)
Biden administration recommends major Alaska oil project

The move — while not final — drew immediate anger from environmentalists

Homer Electric Association General Manager Brad Janorschke testifies before the Senate Resources Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, in Juneau, Alaska. (Screenshot via Gavel Alaska)
Senate group briefed on future of Cook Inlet gas

Demand for Cook Inlet gas could outpace supply as soon as 2027

Most Read