Firefighters learn to take a life-saving plunge

By Jillian Marshall

July 3, 2014 Updated Jul 3, 2014 at 6:27 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A dangerous apartment fire in New York City forced six firefighters to jump out of a four story building in 2005. Two of them died that day.

Now, local firefighters train with state-mandated equipment to make sure that they are never in that situation.

The words 'Black Sunday' send chills down some firefighters spines, as it reminds them of a cold January morning in New York City almost ten years ago.

"'Black Sunday' I think hits hard with all firefighters," said Binghamton Fire Department Asst. Chief Rick Allen Jr.

'Black Sunday' happened when six FDNY firefighters were stuck in a Bronx apartment on the fourth floor, forcing them to jump or succumb to the flames. Two firefighters died and the others were critically injured from jumping out of the window.

There is now a law mandating firefighters to carry emergency bailout equipment.

On Thursday, 15 rookie Binghamton firefighters and one Endicott recruit took the leap for the first time.

The mandated equipment is kept in a pocket on the side of their pants. It's comprised of a rope, a hook, a locking braking system and a harness.

"In a fire, you either have a choice to get burnt by the fire or get out of the building, and this is their only means of escape. So, it has to be second nature, it has to be muscle memory. So, we train on this very seriously, and repetitively, so it is second nature," Allen said.

There are two types of bailouts with the emergency rope equipment: sill and anchor.

An anchor bailout is when a firefighter can use their equipment to tie off on something that anchors them before going out the window, like a pipe or a stud.

Sill bailout is arguably more dangerous, according to firefighters. This happens when there is nothing to anchor to, so firefighters push the tip of their hook into the window sill before descending down the building.

Thursday was the first day the recruits had their hand at bailouts. Each recruit did five anchor bailouts and five sill bailouts. Each time the instructors increased the amount of stress. The last time the future firefighters went down, they were blindfolded and wearing all of their gear, including oxygen.

"In the real world when we do this, this is a last resort, this is a last ditch effort," Allen said.

The future firefighters train Tuesday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., in and out of the classroom. They will graduate in September.

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