By: Art Myers
We've all seen Spiderman, and Superman on the big screen, but did you know there are real super-heroes living among us?
They leap tall buildings, conquer flames and save lives. And recently these Tallahassee Firefighters challenged me to do their job.
So what's it take to be a firefighter? How about courage mixed with a little craziness? My first challenge? Put on a rescue harness and dangle from dizzying heights.
"This is the face of a man who's about to die!" I said, as real firefighters strapped me in and prepared me to jump off the training tower.
My reaction as I looked over the edge: "That's where I have to go? Right down there? Why is there cement at the bottom?"
This may look easy on TV but it's different when it's you're dangling up there - trusting the guys up top won't let go and the rope won't break.
"I think I'm ready! Okay, lower the rescuer! You know something, That's a log way down!"
Tallahassee Firefighters don't rappel anymore- holding their own ropes. They're actually lowered by other firefighters so that if a panicked person jumps from a building, both their hands are free to catch them.
Lt. Mike Bellamy was called out on a night rescue once when a man threatened to jump off a cell tower in the middle of the night. They went up after him.
Says Bellamy, "We got up on an 8 square foot platform with someone who's not really sure what his next move's gonna be. We started negotiating with him." They were able to talk the man down.
So how was I doing on my descent? "It's probably best not to land on your knee," I yelled as I bounced off the wall as I approached the ground.
I took my time descending the drill tower, but real firefighters can't waste a second when a call comes in. A fire doubles in size every three minutes.
My trainer says you have to get suited up and out the door in a minute. Could I make the cut? I had Lt. John Dilks, the head of training, time me.
"Ready, begin!" My first mistake? Not taking off my sneakers before trying to jam my feet into the big firefighter boots. I threw on the heavy coat, gloves fireproof inner mask and air mask as fast as I could with their help.
Dilks' comment at this point was painfully to the point, "we would have been on the scene by now."
As I grabbed the fire hose to tackle a practice fire, It was clear that a a real home might have been a lost cause by the time I got there.
So what does a firefighter think about on the way to the scene?
For three-year veteran Jeremy Rogers His faith is front and center.
"That's a very important part. You're getting your mind right, your head right.. you're looking at your brothers, making sure everything's legit."
Lt. Bellamy says one mistake he made as a rookie 13 years ago was over-exerting himself early.
"A lot of veterans would be in there still working and all the rookie would be out in the yard getting Gatorade and rehabbing. It's a matter of trying to slow yourself down and work smarter."
Well, I was making the same mistakes! You could hear me breathing hard as I tried to douse this blaze that reached at least one-thousand degrees.
I hadn't knocked down any walls or doors, but I was cooked-- exhausted. Never did a wet cloth feel so good on my face and neck!
Be sure to catch part two tomorrow. We'll tackle the Jaws of Life and the dreaded Firefighter Maze, which was the biggest challenge of the day!
Ordinary citizens like me can sign up for a similar experience.
To apply for the Citizens Fire Academy, just go to talgov.com, to the section under "Fire Chief" and fill out an application. You have to be 18 or older.