Participants at the Fire Ops 101 event learn how to put out a car fire.

Participants at the Fire Ops 101 event learn how to put out a car fire.

Photo by Mary Genson

Elected officials become firefighters for the day

By: Mary Genson | C&G Newspapers | Published October 26, 2022

 Vehicle extrication was one of the things local officials learned to do.

Vehicle extrication was one of the things local officials learned to do.

Photo by Mary Genson


OAKLAND COUNTY — On Oct. 7, local politicians learned what it’s like to be firefighters for the day.

The fifth annual OAKWAY Fire Ops 101 Training event was held at the Oakland Community College Combined Regional Emergency Services Training Center in Auburn Hills. Firefighters from 10 departments across the metro Detroit area were involved in the event.

OAKWAY is a mutual aid group that is made up of several departments, including the Birmingham Fire Department and the Bloomfield Township Fire Department.

The CREST Center has several facilities designed for training firefighters and other emergency personnel.

“The 10 fire departments created this event to bring out our local politicians, commissioners, trustees and supervisors to see what it is actually like to be a firefighter for the day,” said Birmingham Fire Chief Paul Wells.

Each exercise was under the controlled supervision of professional firefighters representing 10 departments across the metro Detroit area.

Once the local officials were suited up in proper firefighting gear, they began learning about what their fire departments do in order to keep residents safe.

Participants learned about how to handle a car fire, extrications, interior fire-fighting and more.

“What we do is unique every day,” Wells said.

This program was created to give people hands-on experiences to better their understanding of what goes into emergency situations.

“We’ve had tremendous success with this program,” Wells said.

Birmingham City Commissioner Andrew Haig and Bloomfield Township Trustees Stephanie Fakih and Valerie Murray were in a group together during this event.

This was Haig’s first time participating in the event.

“As soon as the opportunity came up I signed up straight away, because I really wanted to do this and I really wanted to learn,” Haig said. “This was just an awesome opportunity.”

Birmingham and Bloomfield Township representatives participated in a car fire exercise as the first exercise.

With the help of the rest of the group, each participant carried and used the hose to put out a simulated car fire.

Haig said one of the hardest parts was dragging the hose, which was heavy.

“It gives you more of the sense of the nuances you need to understand,” Haig said.

In addition to the fun and instructional aspect of the exercise, Haig said it helped him realize the little things that one would not think of otherwise.

Another exercise the participants went through is vehicle extrication. During the instructional portion, they learned that during these instances, firefighters have to extract the vehicle from the person, rather than extracting the person from the vehicle.

Participants learned how to use tools to cut parts of the car, which are crucial to many vehicle extrications, as well as how to shatter side windows and cut a windshield.

While the firefighters made it look easy, it was apparent how much strength and concentration went into this practice, participants said.