Pacific Northwest public officials gain appreciation for firefig - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Pacific Northwest public officials gain appreciation for firefighters in intense fire operations training in Richland

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RICHLAND, WA. -- We all know fire season is here. We've seen a couple brush fires already. On Friday, some state and local lawmakers traded their suits for firefighter gear and some hands-on experience with fire.

Firefighters from 4 states around the Pacific Northwest were at the HAMMER facility outside Richland for fire training, but they aren't doing the training, they're the trainers for elected officials.

We followed Kennewick City Council member Matt Boehnke through the entire process and saw what he saw from a first hand point of view.

Crawling through smoke filled rooms, cutting makeshift roofs, and putting out dumpster fires; it was all included in Fire Ops 101 Training. Kennewick City Councilman Matt Boehnke did it all. 

"When the decisions are coming in front of us, to make an accurate, more informed decision, you have to walk the walk and you have to get out there with the individuals who are doing this for us," Kennewick City Councilman Matt Boehnke said. "And you're using the same equipment, the same training."

Each elected official paired up with an experienced firefighter to learn how to properly do each of the 6 activities, everything from car fires to climbing ladders. 

"It was about 140, 150 degrees," Boehnke said. "You kind of feel in your face but you're all geared up. You don't really worry about it because you're protected and this gear is the top of the line."

"This is about as real as you can get," Lt. Kelly Fox with the Olympia Fire Department said. "This facility here at HAMMER is a tremendous asset to have for firefighter training."

Friday was designed so public officials could gain an appreciation for the firefighters they have to make decisions on.

"When they get out here and they get to wear this gear and they kind of get to walk in the boots of a firefighter," Lt. Fox said. "They have a different appreciation for it but more than that, they kind of better understanding when we ask them for things, why we need it."

It was an action packed day for these folks, many of whom are used to city council meetings. We have a feeling this is a little bit more exciting.

"That was good stuff," Boehnke said. "That was great. It was a good opportunity to see what you do with teamwork. You have to work in tandem, make sure one is protecting the other one."

When the public officials graduated from Fire Ops 101 Training Friday afternoon, they took home a commemorative firefighter's helmet. Firefighters say they'll also take home a greater appreciation for what they do.

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